DAVIE — Dolphins defensive back Michael Thomas is uncertain if he’ll continue to kneel during the national anthem next season, but he is certain of one thing: There’s still work to be done before there’s social equality in the country.
Thomas pointed to Colin Kaepernick and LeBron James as examples in frankly discussing social issues during OTAs on Thursday afternoon.
Kaepernick, his former teammate on the San Francisco 49ers, began the movement by kneeling. He remains unsigned. As James prepared for the NBA Finals, he also was having to deal with a racial slur being spray-painted on his home in California.
Thomas believes there is a link between Kaepernick’s activism and his inability to land a contract.
“I wish Colin nothing but the best,” Thomas said. “He stood for something he believed in. A lot of people felt the same way. Quite frankly, a lot of people were against it, especially how he chose to protest it.”
Thomas said “it’s crazy” to see what happened at James’ home.
“As an African-American, that’s something you grow up dealing with,” Thomas said. “You could walk around all day with a smile on your face. You can do all the right things. But unfortunately, you’re going to have to deal with some of these things and I think still a lot of people aren’t ready to accept that that’s an actual fact — that that’s an actual reality that some people in America still deal with. I’m not surprised it happened to them. It can happen to anyone.”
Thomas said he was especially touched to hear James talk about how he’ll have to explain the incident to his kids.
“It’s tough, him not being able to be there with his kids, with his boys,” Thomas said. “You know, I’ve got a daughter. At some point I’m going to have to have these conversations with her and it’s just a reality of where we’re at right now in America.”
Social issues have long been important to Thomas, who earned the team’s community service award from teammates a year ago and recently traveled to Haiti to help solve the water crisis there.
He saw kneeling as an extension of bringing awareness to social issues even though many took it as disrespectful toward the flag and the military.
“I can’t really say if I’m going to do something like that,” Thomas said of the 2017 season. But, he added, he’ll “definitely continue to do my part, whatever that might look like, to keep the conversation going.”
Thomas believes progress has been made — there have been fewer reports of police shooting unarmed men, for example. From town halls in which he has been a participant, Thomas believes “a lot of people are more receptive to these conversations” about race.
Then again, when asked what he learned from kneeling last year, Thomas said, “That there are a lot of people right now who aren’t ready to have those type of conversations. They can, for whatever reason, look past the actual issues that are going on in America and they’ll find fault in anything you do, regardless if it’s silent protests.”
It’s clear that Thomas doesn’t regret taking a stance.
“Obviously as a young African-American, I felt in my heart that it was the right thing to do,” he said. “I stand up for people who don’t have a voice, who don’t feel like there’s justice for them.”
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