Two weeks ago, Republican Jack Latvala posted a statement on his Facebook page blasting Tampa Bay Buccaneer wide receiver Mike Evans for choosing to sit on the bench during the playing of the national anthem. A day later, after being barraged with a firestorm of criticism, Evans said he would no longer do so.
Now, the Clearwater state Senator is calling on the public to sign a petition informing the National Football League that they proudly stand for the anthem.
“If NFL players are going to sit, let’s all sit,” Latvala wrote on his Facebook page Monday afternoon. “Sit on our wallets instead of spending money on NFL tickets and merchandise. Sit in our homes or somewhere else on Sunday instead of NFL stadiums. Sign our petition to tell the NFL that you proudly stand for our National Anthem.”
Only a small group of players have followed the lead of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision during the pre-season to sit during the anthem. Kaepernick says he is doing so to protest the treatment of blacks by law enforcement and the larger society. One of those players on Sunday who sat was Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane, who did so in Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, situated across the bay from Latvala’s senate district.
While Latvala has received plenty of “thumbs-up” on his page indicating support for his position, he has also received some criticism, not surprising considering how emotional the issue is for some people.
“Are we now in a police state or is this still the United States of America,” asked Judy Micco. “We have so many more issues on which to spend our time and energy.”
But James Barker agreed, writing,” Do not tune into NFL – I enjoy the time not wasted on NFL any longer – enjoy our beaches instead!”
With NFL television ratings below the standard in recent years, there has been speculation that fans turned off by Kaepernick’s actions have been boycotting watching the league. Others say the ratings were down because of the excitement about the presidential election.
A Yahoo/YouGov Poll conducted last month showed that 29 percent of NFL fans said they were watching less pro football than in recent years, which 40 percent blamed the national anthem protests. It was an especially popular reason for those 55 and over, with 53 percent of that demographic citing protests as their main reason for boycotting the league.