Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter said Monday he was disappointed with Mike Evans' decision to protest President-elect Donald Trump by kneeling during the national anthem Sunday, but he respected his star wide receiver's right to do so.
Koetter re-read the remarks he made earlier in the year about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustices. At the time, Koetter said that he believed players should stand for the anthem, but that the team would not instruct players to do so.
"I'm disappointed for that," Koetter said in a news conference Monday when asked for his specific thoughts on Evans' protest. "But, again, I also respect Mike's freedom of speech and freedom of expression."
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No other Buccaneers player has knelt during the national anthem so far this season.
Koetter added that he was unaware of any plans for a protest. Evans, who is fifth in the NFL with 811 receiving yards, said Sunday he did not inform anyone on the team of his intention to kneel prior to the Buccaneers' 36-10 win over the Chicago Bears.
"I don't want to disrespect the veterans or anything. The men and women that serve this country, I'm forever indebted to them," Evans said. "But the things that have been going on in America lately, I'm not going to stand for that.
"I told myself, 'If this character' — I'm not big on politics or things like that — but I told myself, 'If this happens, then America is not right right now. I said it a long time ago. When he ran, I thought it was a joke. The joke continues."
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Evans said he would continue the protest as long as Trump as President-elect.