Miami Dolphins’ Stephen Ross calls NFL meeting on social issues ‘constructive’

Retired NFL player Anquan Boldin of Pahokee (left), Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid speak Tuesday after a meeting with NFL players and owners on social inequality in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Controversial anthem protests took a back seat to social inequality Tuesday as NFL players including three members of the Dolphins, plus owner Stephen Ross, met with other team owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell in New York.

Dolphins players Michael Thomas, Kenny Stills and Julius Thomas — who are not standing with teammates during the anthem — attended the meeting, giving the Dolphins the largest representation of any organization.

Players emerged from the discussion encouraged, according to multiple reports.

Ross called the dialogue “constructive,” according to The Associated Press.

“We heard what they had to say and they heard us,” Ross said. “It’s open talks and that’s a good thing.”

Goodell read a brief statement and planned to take questions on the matter when the quarterly meetings conclude later this week.

“I think we all agree there is nothing more important than trying to give back into our communities and make our communities better,” Goodell said. “That was the entire focus today.”

No definitive policies were announced, but the NFL and the NFL Players Association released a joint statement calling it “a productive meeting focused on how we can work together to promote positive social change and address inequality in our communities.

“ … We agreed that these are common issues and pledged to meet again.”

No rule changes regarding the anthem were discussed, Monday Morning Quarterback’s Albert Breer reported. Colts cornerback Darius Butler told Breer it’s “all going to come down to the individual player” whether to kneel.

The Dolphins recently said that all players on the sideline for the anthem must stand. Michael Thomas, Julius Thomas and Stills have since opted to remain in the tunnel or locker room until the anthem concludes.

Julius Thomas said the message he wanted to bring was “what everybody is hoping for in this country, not just in the game of football or pertaining to our league: a place that everybody feels equal.”

Thomas added, “That’s a cause that’s important to me and my message will always be that.”

Julius Thomas took it as a positive sign that the session was included as part of the league’s quarterly meetings. It comes at a contentious time when some owners are pressuring their players to stand at attention after President Donald Trump called on teams to release players who don’t comply.

“I think that this is great that the NFL, the owners, are taking the time to speak with us,” Julius Thomas said. “I think there’s really no wrong that can come from having a conversation. I’m just going to pray on it and really try to communicate my feelings and some of my viewpoints.”

Following the meeting, the league and union said, “In the best American tradition, we are coming together to find common ground and commit to the hard work required for positive change.”

Attending were Goodell and the league’s football operations chief, former Dolphin Troy Vincent; and owners Michael Bidwill (Arizona), Arthur Blank (Atlanta), Terry Pegula (Buffalo), Robert McNair (Houston), Shad Khan (Jacksonville), Ross, Robert Kraft (New England), John Mara (New York Giants), Art Rooney (Pittsburgh), Jeffrey Lurie (Philadelphia) and Jed York (San Francisco).

Representing the players were NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, union president Eric Winston and former player Anquan Boldin. In addition to the three Dolphins, other current players participating were Darius Butler (Indianapolis), Russell Okung (Los Angeles Chargers), Mark Herzlich (New York Giants), Kelvin Beachum and Demario Davis (New York Jets), Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Long (Philadelphia), Eric Reid (San Francisco) and Josh Norman (Washington).

Colin Kaepernick, who initiated the protests, was not present. Jenkins said he was invited.  Kaepernick’s lawyer said he was not invited by the league but indicated his client is open to invitations in the future.

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