Tavarres Invites Controversy, Pulls Back
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Eagles undrafted rookie linebacker Myke Tavarres found himself in the middle of a national controversy on Monday after expressing his opinion to ESPN NFL Nation reporter Tim McManus.
The roster hopeful originally told McManus he nearly sat during the National Anthem before Saturday’s game in Indianapolis and planned to actually do it on Thursday before the the Eagles’ preseason finale against the New York Jets.
"Oh, I thought about it. Believe me, I definitely thought about it," Tavarres told ESPN on Monday. "And usually I'm front and center on the line with the rest of the guys, and that's since pre-K all the way up. Saturday's game, I stepped back, I was in the background, and it didn't feel right to me at all, and so I will be taking a stand -- or sitting down -- for the fourth game."
The discussion was in regard to Colin Kaepernick’s similar protest In San Francisco, in which the embattled quarterback sat during the anthem, ostensibly to start a conversation on the country’s treatment of minorities.
The act has become a polarizing subject that transcends sport and invaded the Eagles’ locker room.
According to various players Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who often wears his patriotism on his sleeve, held an open forum on the topic during a defensive meeting Monday and Tavarres was among those who talked despite his standing on the team.
Others, who spoke included entrenched veterans Malcolm Jenkins and Leodis McKelvin.
"We've got an issue in this country in this day and age, and I feel like somebody needs to step up and we all need to step up," Tavarres told ESPN. "We've got that right. There's just a lot going on that people don't want to talk about, and I feel like us as athletes, we're looked at as role models. And I feel like with Colin Kaepernick, he's doing a great job for standing up in what he believes in, and most people may not like that, but that's his opinion, he's entitled to it, and I respect him for doing it."
Later, however, the little-known rookie out on Incarnate Word reversed course after his agent, Corey Williams, got in his ear and advised the young man to change his stance.
"He plans on standing for the National Anthem," Williams said in a statement. "Myke does not want to be a distraction to the Philadelphia Eagles organization. Myke's goal is and will always be to make the Eagles 53-man roster and help the team win a Super Bowl."
Tavarres is believed to be in a battle with fellow rookie Quentin Gause for the team’s sixth and final LB spot, although the Eagles could also look outside the organization to help solidify their depth at the position.
“We respect the national anthem, its history and our many freedoms as Americans that it celebrates,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said in a statement after Tavarres’ comments. “We also respect an individual’s freedom of expression.”
Later Monday night, Tavarres released his own statement through his agent.
"I feel passionate about racial issues going on in our country and I thought that sitting during the National Anthem would bring more awareness to this issue and encourage more constructive discussion to find solutions, but I feel I only made things worse," the young LB said.
"I want to make change in this world, but sitting down during the national anthem just isn't the best way to do it. With that being said, I do plan on finding a better way. I'm young and I still have a lot to learn about saying and doing the right thing. For now, I will stay focused on football; but I will definitely look for opportunities to do what I can to prevent injustices.
"I am so blessed to be an American and I just feel a responsibility to do what I can to make things better."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen