NEW YORK—The Dolphins have come a long way in a year when it comes to discussing race issues, politics and national anthem protests.
Michael Thomas and others tried to hold a meeting prior to the 2016 season opener in Seattle so the team could work toward a unified demonstration. It was such a difficult topic that some players walked out while it was still being discussed.
In the wake of Donald Trump’s recent verbal attack on players who protest, though, it was a completely different conversation when players convened at their New Jersey hotel Saturday night.
“It was totally the opposite of what happened last year,” Thomas said. “We brought it up to the team and black, white—it didn’t matter. Everybody was like, ‘Hey, let’s figure out a way to do something where we’re all together.’ Locking arms? Yeah, everybody felt like they could do that. I thought that was huge for us to do, so I felt like for today, especially since coaches are trying to get involved, the team owner’s trying to get involved, why not do that?
“But obviously there were some players who felt convicted in their heart to take a knee today, and everybody supported that, too. It was great to have everybody doing something together as a team to just join the conversation. You can no longer stay silent. You can no longer be neutral, either.”
Thomas was one of four players who kneeled during the anthem last season. He stood and locked arms with the majority of his teammates before Sunday’s 20-6 loss to the Jets.
At least five players chose to kneel. Kenny Stills, who did so last year, was joined by Jay Ajayi, Maurice Smith, Julius Thomas and Laremy Tunsil. Another member of the organization kneeled as well, but his identity was inconclusive in person and based on videos and photos.
Michael Thomas did not intend to continue kneeling this year and said he didn’t kneel Sunday “just because I wanted to be with the team.” He’s obviously not opposed to taking a knee and voiced support for those who did.
He was one of several players who expressed belief that their protests are not divisive. He sees it as inclusive.
“It is huge for us to have our team behind us,” he said. “More people joining the conversation this year is huge. Even players who don’t want to protest, at least this year they’re saying, ‘I stand behind my brother. Because the cause that he’s fighting for means a lot to him, I support him.’ That’s huge.
“It’s obviously inclusive if you’ve got black, white, player, owner, coaching staff—everybody all together. It’s obviously inclusive. It’s in a positive light.”
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