Miami Dolphins’ Michael Thomas, Kenny Stills: Anthem controversy easily could be solved

Dolphins players Julius Thomas, Michael Thomas and Kenny Stills continue to kneel for the national anthem. (Getty Images)

DAVIE — Dolphins safety Michael Thomas and receiver Kenny Stills said Wednesday that the controversial issue of players kneeling during the national anthem could have been avoided — and still could be settled — if the NFL would issue a statement supporting the players’ fight against social injustice.

The issue hit another flashpoint earlier in the day when it was revealed that Thomas, Stills and 49ers safety Eric Reid were severing ties with the Anquan Boldin-led Players Coalition, which reportedly is hammering out an agreement with the league for a $100 million contribution to causes seeking social justice. Thomas and Stills said they have issues with a lack of transparency in the process, and Thomas said the actual dollar figure would be significantly lower.

Moreover, Thomas and Stills said they do not doubt that the NFL is attempting to quash the kneeling controversy by simply writing a check.

“I would not say it’d be a stretch,” Thomas said.

Thomas, Stills and tight end Julius Thomas have been kneeling during the national anthem this season, which has drawn criticism from fans and even President Donald Trump, who see the act as disrespectful toward the flag and the military.


‘How hard is it for people to come out and say that they’re against racism, they’re for equality?’ — Kenny Stills


The players have been arguing for critics to consider the reasons behind their actions, not just the actions themselves.

“How hard is it for people to come out and say that they’re against racism, they’re for equality?” Stills said. “At the end of the day that’s really what we want to hear and I think once we can address the issues, we can start working towards solutions.”

While momentarily pushing aside his differences with the Players Coalition, Michael Thomas issued a plea for support from the league.

“We’ve been saying this from the jump this year,” Thomas said. “If we just get a statement — not even a monetary donation — if we just get a statement saying, ‘Yes, we support our players and the cause that they’re fighting for and we agree that something needs to be done,’ and it genuinely comes from the league — we’ve been telling them we will stand. We’ve seen no such thing.”

In an interview with Bloomberg early this month, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “Our players repeat over and over again, ‘This isn’t about disrespect for the flag or our military or our veterans,’ and I believe them, but they also understand that it is interpreted much differently on a national basis.”

Goodell added that players “are focusing on social justice, criminal justice reform, how we bring hope to people and give them opportunities to live a better life. I’m proud of our players for that, and proud of our owners for listening, supporting them, and trying to give them a platform of which to make improvements in our society.” But, Goodell also said, “People come to our stadiums to be entertained and have fun, not to be protested to.”

ESPN reported that the national funding from the league would be allocated with 25 percent to the United Negro College Fund, 25 percent to Dream Corps and 50 percent to the Players Coalition, which has filed 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) paperwork for nonprofit status.

Thomas said, “Without talking down on someone else, dragging somebody else’s name through the mud, I can’t see myself putting my name on what has been recently proposed for us to agree upon and say, ‘This is what I’ve been taking a knee for this whole time. This is what I took a stance for and now I can stand up.’ ”

Thomas said the irony is that many elements of the plan came from himself, Stills, Julius Thomas, Reid and Colin Kaepernick, who inspired the protests.

“Everything you’re going to see is going to be a skeleton of what could be done,” Michael Thomas said. “But it’s not enough, in my opinion. It’s not significant enough to where it’s sustainable over time.”

Thomas shrugged at the $100 million figure, saying, “Please.” He added, “If guys feel comfortable signing off on that, saying, ‘Hey, look what I’ve done. I got $5 million from the NFL, woo-hoo’ … I can’t sign off on that.”

Stills said he has “a ton of respect” for Pahokee’s Boldin and fellow organizer Malcolm Jenkins, but not the coalition’s system.

“We don’t feel like everyone’s getting the same voice, getting to share their opinion,” Stills said. “It’s Malcolm and Anquan’s thing and it was always their thing. So respectfully, we’re going to let them go on.”

A representative of Boldin’s did not immediately return an e-mail for a response.

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