Once upon a time (i.e. last September) Stephen Ross was one of the only NFL owners supporting players who knelt during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racial inequality.
Before an event for the Jackie Robinson Foundation, of all places, the Dolphins boss explained Monday night that Donald Trump had changed his mind about the protests. Ross told the New York Daily News that “all of our players will be standing,” in 2018.
“Initially, I totally supported the players in what they were doing,” said Ross. “It’s America and people should be able to really speak about their choices.”
“When that message changed, and everybody was interpreting it as [disrespecting the flag] was the reason, then I was against kneeling,” said Ross. “I like Donald (Trump). I don’t support everything that he says. Overall, I think he was trying to make a point, and his message became what kneeling was all about. From that standpoint, that is the way the public is interpreting it. So I think that’s really incumbent upon us to adopt that. That’s how, I think, the country now is interpreting the kneeling issue.”
So let’s get this straight: Ross supported the players and their cause, but changed his mind because the president led a bad-faith misinformation campaign to distract from actual issues and change the subject to something more convenient. Does that sound about right?
Protesting players have explained dozens and dozens of times why they chose to take a knee, and it has nothing to do with the flag, the military or the anthem. Anyone, including the president, who suggests kneelers are unpatriotic does so not based on any evidence, but instead based on a desire to stanch a movement for racial justice.
Ross knows all this, yet he still pats Trump on the back and scolds kneeling players. You know why? Because protests threaten his bank account. You don’t get to be a billionaire by taking courageous stands. You get to be a billionaire by looking out for your bottom line. That’s why owners, even the most open-minded ones, will never be part of the players’ movement.
It’s unclear if the Dolphins will decline to sign players with an intention to kneel, as the Texans reportedly will. Of the three Miami players who protested regularly last season, Julius Thomas is expected to be released and Michael Thomas is a free agent. Kenny Still remains under contract with the Dolphins.