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Jack Latvala says he agrees with Donald Trump’s criticism of NFL players

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After Tampa Bay Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans opted not to stand for the national anthem in protest of Donald Trump’s election, Pinellas state Sen. Jack Latvala said he would personally boycott Bucs games until Evans apologized or was cut from the team.

He is maintaining that stance after Evans and fellow Bucs wide receiver DeSean Jackson joined many of their NFL brethren on Sunday by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. The protests were in response to Trump’s comments made Friday night that NFL owners who have players “disrespecting the flag” should “get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired.”

“A year ago, long before I became a candidate for Governor I called out the Bucs receiver who knelt for the national anthem,” Latvala wrote on his Facebook page Sunday night. “This is not a new issue for me and my attitude has not changed.”

Two NFL teams – the Seattle Seahawks and the Tennessee Titans – chose to protest by not even leaving their locker rooms while the national anthem was played in Nashville. The Pittsburgh Steelers did the same thing before their game in Chicago, with the exception of one player, offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva.

Latvala says he’s a fan of Villanueva.

“Thankfully we still have players like Alejandro Villanueva who stood up for our country on the battlefield and stood up for our flag today!” Latvala wrote.

The Clearwater Republican announced his candidacy for Florida governor last month, joining Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the race.

Putnam tweeted Sunday that he also agreed with the president comments about NFL players who refuse to stand for the anthem.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who is strongly considering running for governor, tweeted a photo of Villanueva showing his support for standing for the anthem. “This is what a hero looks like,” Corcoran wrote.

After Latvala criticized Evans last year, the receiver backed down, saying that he would no longer sit during the anthem. Evans was criticized by fans not only for refusing to stand for the anthem in protest of Trump’s election but for also admitting that he didn’t actually vote in the presidential contest.

However, this time, the Bucs receiver sounds like he won’t back down.

“When the president has singled out athletes, or African-American athletes, myself and my other colleagues that took a knee just have different beliefs than him,” Evans told the Tampa Bay Times Sunday. “It was very childish on his part. It seems like he’s trying to divide us. I think this is an opportunity for me to do what I can. A lot of guys around the league did it and I understand why.”

“People are going to misconstrue and turn it to make it depict a different picture than it really is,” Evans continued. “I love the military. Like I said last year when I sat, it’s nothing against the military at all. The anthem is different for other people. People say it’s unpatriotic. But it’s unpatriotic for the president not to respect our rights.”

As was the case last year, Latvala is attracting plenty of comments on his Facebook page for his stance on the issue — pro and con.

“I don’t appreciate or support the Bucs’ stance on this issue,” wrote Cherie Anne Gaynor. “I’m finished with them and probably all NFL teams and will try not to buy any of their sponsors’ products.”

“I appreciate people who stand by their beliefs,” wrote Adam Miguel Harvey. “You’re not getting my vote but thank you for it being vocal about the argument.”



Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

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