The day after re-igniting the topic of NFL players and the national anthem, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has clarified his comments, asserting that his words were misconstrued.
On Monday night, Ross told the New York Daily News that after initially being supportive of players who protested to bring attention to issues like police brutality, racial inequality and social injustice, he changed his mind after seeing others, notably President Donald Trump, say that the protests were divisive and disrespectful to the military and of the flag.
(Every player who has taken part in protests, going back to Colin Kaepernick, has said repeatedly that the protests are not against the military or the flag, and a great number of active and retired military members, even those who disagree with the method, have said that they fought for all Americans, like NFL players, to be able to protest peacefully, but some refuse to accept these facts as, well, facts.)
Ross made the comments before receiving an award from the Jackie Robinson Foundation for being “a longtime champion of equal opportunity.”
But Ross has clarified his stance, via a statement released by the Dolphins on Tuesday.
“I have no intention of forcing our players to stand during the anthem and I regret that my comments have been misconstrued. I’m passionate about the cause of social justice and I feel that kneeling is an ineffective tactic that alienates more people than it enlists,” Ross said.
“I know our players care about the military and law enforcement too because I’ve seen the same players who are fighting for social justice engaging positively with law enforcement and the military. I care passionately that the message of social justice resonates far and wide and I will continue to support and fund efforts for those who fight for equality for all.”
(Of course, years ago, many people were saying the same thing about lunch counter sit-ins and other actions that were meant to lead to racial equality and social justice.)
Three Miami players have consistently taken part in on-field protests: Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas and Julius Thomas. At the start of the 2017 season, Ross had convinced the trio to stand, but that was short-lived, as Trump’s incendiary comments during a rally in Alabama just days after the regular season began led to the Dolphins’ trio and dozen of other NFL players protesting.
Later in the season, coach Adam Gase decided that players who didn’t stand during the anthem would stay in the locker room while it was played, but that too didn’t last long, once coaches and players realized it was impacting game preparation.
Ross, who has been the Dolphins’ majority owner since 2009, put $7 million of his own money toward the development of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), a non-profit “dedicated to harnessing the unifying power of sports to improve race relations and drive social progress.”