ORLANDO—The national anthem protests have been a polarizing issue in the NFL over the last two seasons, and the Dolphins have been right in the middle of it.
Miami has been among the most vocal teams, led primarily by safety Michael Thomas and wide receiver Kenny Stills, when it comes to taking a stance against social and racial injustice. Stills, Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas all kneeled during the national anthem this season, and a few other players joined them in the Week 3 game against the Jets after inflammatory remarks by Donald Trump.
Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin, who has also been active in the players’ movement, praised Thomas for making an impact.
“It’s fantastic when you have a guy who takes the time to be empathetic about other people’s plights and put himself in other people’s shoes and try to listen and learn as much as he can and try to effect change,” said Baldwin, who played with Thomas at Stanford.
The Dolphins’ story took a surprising turn, however, when the order came down for players to remain in the locker room if they intended to protest. Owner Stephen Ross said publicly it was time for them to stand in unity, and coach Adam Gase instituted it as a new team policy.
Shortly after that, though, the players met with Gase to express their displeasure with the rule. He reconsidered and allowed them to resume kneeling.
“It’s a step of empathy,” Baldwin said. “You have a lot of guys who are owners or coaches who are willing to hear the conversation and willing to listen, but the next step is toward them being empathetic. When they do that, it’s very easy for them to relate to guys and connect with guys in a passionate way like you’ve seen. It’s a hard step to take because it’s an unknown step at times.”
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