Asked Thursday about the Colin-Kaepernick-inspired national discussion about athlete activism -- on whether he would welcome a similar stance from one of his teammates and how he'd handle the resulting blowback -- Evans was characteristically introspective.
Seattle defender Brad Evans has never been reticent about speaking his mind, both in the aftermath of last year’s MLS Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations (for which he was a players’ union rep) and otherwise. As the Sounders captain, he’s also a keen observer of locker room dynamics.
Asked Thursday about the Colin-Kaepernick-inspired national discussion about athlete activism — on whether he would welcome a similar stance from one of his teammates and how he’d handle the resulting blowback — Evans was characteristically introspective.
Below are the highlights of that conversation, edited for length and clarity.
“Earlier in the year, I made a joke with a Trump tweet and that obviously got some traction,” Evans said. “I was just poking fun more than anything. I wasn’t really taking a stand, per se. It wasn’t a show of defiance. And we’re obviously in a very liberal city. We have a very liberal owner in Adrian (Hanauer), who may or may not agree with what I said. We’re in a place here where we can say something like that and it’s brushed aside.
“Now, if I had videotaped myself in a Sounders uniform going to a Trump rally and throwing (expletive) on the stage or something like that, it would have gotten blown up into something that I have to be smarter about. I need to think about those who I’m affecting in my locker room by bringing in added pressure that isn’t necessary.
“I think there’s a line that’s drawn – being smart and cognizant of your environment. But at the same time, if we’re speaking on the Kaepernick issue, I will never be able to experience the things he’s experienced. It’s impossible for me to say what he’s feeling on the inside. When somebody has been feeling so much that they feel like they have no other way to express themselves than to take a defiant stand against the flag, in my opinion, it’s his free opinion to do what he wants.”
– Has the subject of athletes and political stands ever come up in the Sounders locker room?
“I don’t know if it was before this year or last year, but Adrian came in and said, ‘First and foremost, you’re representing the city. You’re representing the club. And just be smart about what you do. Just know, that if you do do anything that’s out of line, the club will have your back to a certain extent. But if it’s egregious, you’re going to shoulder that responsibility.’ It was a very mild talk. We’ve never been put into that situation before. So it’ll be interesting to see after this offseason, what goes into that preseason talk.”
– Has it ever come up in his career between players, peer-to-peer?
“Nobody has ever come up to me and said, ‘What if I do this today? Will the team have my back? Will you have my back?’ There’s never been a situation like that. I would hope that if there was, that they would come to me first. If it’s a situation where they have to sit down with the team, to say, ‘This is going to potentially happen today,’ then that gives them a heads up.
“Part of me wants to say, ‘We’re here to win games and we don’t need that extra distraction if we’re not doing well.’ But another part of me says, ‘Who am I to tell somebody else what to do?’”
– On the value of empathy, and why a willingness to step into somebody else’s shoes makes for a good captain:
“It’s important in anything. You’ll never understand somebody else’s situation. But try to understand, for example, where Chad Marshall came from, where Clint (Dempsey) came from, why they act the way that they do. Why, when a coach says something, why they might be defiant, or the other way around, why they listen instantly.
“A guy like Victor (Mansaray), somebody who has come over here and been raised in two different countries (Sierra Leone and the U.S.), what that cultural difference is like. I’ll never understand what that’s like. In some situations, where I’m like, ‘Why are you late today? Why aren’t you staying after practice to do more shooting?’ If you’re a defender, ‘Why aren’t you staying after to do more defending?’ It could be a thing that’s just developed in their head from years and years of different culture, different mentality.
“I have to be aware of those different cultures to know that I can push buttons in different ways for different people and have a good pulse on why they do what they do.”
– On why, in some ways, that’s the value of team sports, the blending of disparate experiences into a unified whole:
“I wouldn’t trade a locker room experience for anything. It’s all a learning experience. Without the players that we have now, the players we’ve had since 2009, we don’t get the results. We don’t have the flair of a Fredy Montero, the unexpectedness of a (Marco) Pappa – all of his off-field stuff and his awesome on-field stuff. It makes for an interesting dynamic and it makes us who we are.
“That’s why I think soccer, more than any other sport – maybe baseball a little bit, or hockey – but soccer is just so out-there. It’s so different. You look down our roster, and it’s so diverse. You don’t want everything to be in one set way. You want splashes of unexpectedness and of trickery. That comes from different cultures, whether you were playing futsal in Brazil until you were 15 or you’re Chad Marshall and all you’ve played is the American style of soccer, heading the ball away.
“That’s what makes it great.”