NFL national anthem protest: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross says time for players to stand

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has been vocal in his support of player protests. (Getty Images)

MIAMI GARDENS—Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has been one of the most outspokenly NFL executives in support of players protesting during the national anthem. Now he believes it’s time for them to make a statement by standing.

That’s in large part because Donald Trump has turned the issue into a debate on patriotism, and Ross would like to see the Dolphins show their allegiance to the country by not kneeling during the anthem.

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“It’s a different dialogue today,” Ross said this morning at his weekly RISE tailgate. “Whenever you’re dealing with the flag, you’re dealing with something different. (Trump) has changed that whole paradigm of what protest is. I think it’s incumbent upon the players today, because of how the public is looking at it, is to stand and salute the flag.”

He added later that he believes the Dolphins voted to stand together during the anthem before today’s home game against the Titans.

Six players kneeled before the Jets game two weeks ago in the wake of Trump’s scathing criticism of players who protest. The rest of the team, including Ross, stood with arms locked.

Last week in London, Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas and Julius Thomas kneeled during the anthem. Stills and Michael Thomas did so all last season. Julius Thomas said previously he was committed to doing it the entire season.

Ross believes players can have a significant impact this week by standing and eliminating any question about their patriotism, though it bears noting that Dolphins players have expressed that their protest of racial inequality is intended to make the country better. He reiterated his point that they need to respond to the conversation being framed differently now compared to last season.

“I saw what was needed in this country and the fact that people are kind of looking at sports to lead the way,” Ross said. “When you can be on the front page of the paper for several months like we were several years ago when we had our bullying incident and things like that, you can see how people are looking at sports with the social injustices going around and what the problems in our country are. It was a way to lead and take the upper hand and try and create change.

“It’s a totally different tone today, though. I really applaud those guys, but I think it’s different today from the standpoint of Trump has made it all about patriotism with the flag. I think it’s so important today, because that’s what the country’s looking at, that we look at it differently and there will be different ways of protesting or getting your cause out there by the athletes.”

While advocating for players to stand this week, Ross praised them repeatedly for making their point.

“It all started a conversation, which we started a couple years ago, and I’ve been supportive of them,” he said. “I believe in these social causes, and it’s really what football stands for today and the paradigm of how people are looking to sports to create change. Sports is really the great equalizer amongst everybody. It’s a common denominator. So I think what was done was great—what they did started last year—but it’s taken a different tone this year.”

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