NFL anthem protests: Dolphins’ Adam Gase instructs players to stand or stay in tunnel

Adam Gase instructed players to stand for the national anthem or stay in the locker room. (AP)

MIAMI GARDENS—There was a change in the Dolphins’ handling of protests during the national anthem over the past week. Stephen Ross has been one of the most outspoken owners in the league in his support of players demonstrating, and coach Adam Gase has completely stayed out of it until now.

The conversation around players who kneel has changed since Donald Trump got involved by calling those who do so “sons of bitches” and saying they should be fired, which increased push back against those players.

The Dolphins have had multiple players protest during the anthem over the past two years, saying they are doing so as part of an overall effort to raise awareness about racial inequality in the United States. Heading into today’s game against the Titans, however, that was not permitted because Gase said they must stand if they were on the field.

“There was just a decision made that we were gonna stand,” he said. “If guys didn’t want to stand, stay back in the locker room.”

When asked to specify who made the decision, Gase said, “I did,” with no elaboration.

[RELATED: Amazing photos from the Dolphins’ home-opening win against the Titans]

Earlier in the day, Ross praised players for the statement they’ve made and the national discussion they initiated. He also said at this time, in light of Trump framing it as an issue of patriotism, it was “incumbent upon the players” to stand for the anthem.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Ross initially said the decision for all Dolphins to stand was based on a team vote, though it was later clarified that Gase made the call. Gase spoke with players about the issue before and after forming that policy and explained it to Stills, Thomas and Thomas during the week.

Stills and Julius Thomas were among the six Miami players who kneeled at the Jets game, two days after Trump’s comments. They continued their protest last weekend in London, and Michael Thomas joined them. There was no indication that they intended to stop, and Julius Thomas had said he was committed to doing it all season.

“We were told to either stand for the anthem or stay in the locker room, so that’s what we did,” Stills said. “It’s not about what I think about it or anything like that. It’s about the work that we’re doing. It’s never been about the protests or the flag or any of that. We’ll just continue to focus on the work that we’re doing in the community and we’ve got some plans and things in the works with the NFL, so that’s what we’re working on.”

Ross mentioned that as well when he attended the weekly pre-game tailgate as part of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality, an organization dedicated improving race relations. He was optimistic that players would find “different ways of protesting or getting your cause out” that didn’t involve a controversy about their patriotism.

When Michael Thomas was asked about Gase’s decision, he echoed Ross’ point and was upbeat about the players’ movement going forward.

“We’re coming up with a solution,” he said. “It’s all because we wanted to provide more resources to our community and bring awareness to inequalities and injustice, so now I think the league’s heard us. They’ve heard the cries of their players and they’re willing to work with us, so very soon that’s going to happen.

“Very soon, everybody who sees what’s going to come out of it will see that it was never about actually protesting the flag, that it wasn’t about disrespecting our military. It was about trying to bring light to the issues going on in our community. The league heard us, and it’s going to be good.”

[Don’t be surprised when Jay Cutler does what he always does]

[Dolphins owner Stephen Ross calls for players to stand for the national anthem]

[Three Miami Dolphins stay off the field for national anthem rather than kneel]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

NFL national anthem protest: Dolphins TE Julius Thomas, two others kneel

Miami Dolphins players kneel down during the national anthem before the NFL game between the Miami Dolphins and the New Orleans Saints at Wembley Stadium on October 1, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

LONDON — Some Miami Dolphins continued protesting social injustice by kneeling during the national anthem, and tight end Julius Thomas expressed recently that he is committed to doing for the foreseeable future.

Julius Thomas kneeled for the anthem. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

Thomas, safety Michael Thomas and wide receiver Kenny Stills kneeled during Darius Rucker’s singing of The Star-Spangled Banner before this morning’s game against the Saints at Wembley Stadium. New Orleans’ players kneeled as a team prior to the anthem, then stood as it began.

Left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who kneeled last week, did not do so in London, but also did not stand attentively for the anthem. Tunsil went about his usual pre-game business by stretching during the song.

All Miami players stood for the ensuing performance of God Save the Queen, the royal anthem of the United Kingdom.

Julius Thomas and Stills kneeled during the anthem before last week’s game against the Jets, along with Jordan Phillips, Maurice Smith, Tunsil and Jay Ajayi kneeled. Michael Thomas did not kneel, though he was one of four Miami players who demonstrated in that way last season.

[PHOTO GALLERY: Live images from Dolphins-Saints tilt in London]

[Miami Dolphins WR Kenny Stills hasn’t been catching passes in practice]

[Dolphins backup safety Maurice Smith says he’d be fine if he got cut over anthem protest]

[Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry explains why he’ll never kneel for the national anthem]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

Dolphins S Michael Thomas describes team meeting on anthem protest

Michael Thomas was heartened by what he saw from his team Saturday night. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

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.”

[Opinion: Protesting Miami Dolphins use their platform better than Donald Trump used his]

[Cameron Wake baffled by Dolphins’ big loss to New York]

[Grading the Dolphins in a 20-6 loss to the Jets]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

Dolphins WR Kenny Stills: I’m with Colin Kaepernick

Stills is one of the most likely Dolphins to protest today. (Bill Ingram/The Post)

NEW YORK–The NFL is bracing for a wave of national anthem protests today in the wake of Donald Trump’s disparaging comments about players who have been demonstrating. One of the most prominent players to do so last year was Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills.

Stills said going into the season he would no longer kneel during the anthem, but he’s surely been thinking about that this weekend. Few Dolphins players are as likely to take a political stance today as he is.

Stills hasn’t given any public response to Trump, but here’s one indication of what he’s thinking this morning: He tweeted out a photo of himself wearing a shirt that reads #IMWITHKAP with the caption “In case you didn’t know!”

That’s a reference to former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is credited with starting the anthem protest movement last summer. Kaepernick remains out of a job, seemingly in part because of his activism.

RELATED: Trump continues to blast NFL players who won’t stand for national anthem

Stills and safety Michael Thomas, as well as former Dolphins Arian Foster and Jelani Jenkins, kneeled during the anthem at last year’s opener in Seattle.

Stills and Thomas continued demonstrating the remainder of the season, saying they were taking a stand against racial inequality. Neither intended to continue kneeling this season, saying they’d made their point last year and it was time to take different action. All Dolphins players stood for the national anthem at last week’s game against the Chargers.

[Polling the locker room: Dolphins players want Lawrence Timmons back]

[Friday’s post-practice report on the Dolphins]

[Miami Dolphins rookies tell the stories of their NFL debuts]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

NFL national anthem protests could rise after Donald Trump comments

The national anthem will be in the spotlight throughout the NFL on Sunday. (Bill Ingram/The Post)

NEW YORK—The singing of the national anthem at Sunday’s Dolphins-Jets game could get interesting.

Miami was one of the teams at the forefront of last year’s protests as four players kneeled during the anthem at the opener in Seattle, and owner Stephen Ross supported them publicly. Kenny Stills and Michael Thomas, who were speaking up against racial inequality in our country, continued to do so the rest of the season.

The Dolphins have not demonstrated at any of their five games this year, counting four preseason ones, but Friday’s comments by Donald Trump will surely make some of the men in that locker room consider taking a stand.

“That’s a total disrespect of our heritage,” Trump said of anthem protests while speaking at an event in Alabama. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now’? Out. He’s fired. He’s fired.”

He went on to say, among other opinions about the NFL, that the sport’s TV ratings have declined because people are more interested in watching “yours truly.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement saying Trump showed “an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players.” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said his union will never stop “protecting the constitutional rights of our players as citizens.”

Trump’s words seem far more likely to increase protests rather than discourage them.

Stills and Thomas both decided to stop kneeling this year, with Stills saying he believed he’d sufficiently made his point last season and wouldn’t accomplish anything by continuing it. Stills later said he was still considering it.

Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler also likely has an opinion since he publicly supported Trump during the 2016 election. Cutler has not been asked about his politics since joining the Dolphins last month.

Both are very mindful politically and socially, and they’re not the only ones. Several Dolphins players reacted on Twitter in the first 24 hours after his comments.

[Polling the locker room: Dolphins players want Lawrence Timmons back]

[Friday’s post-practice report on the Dolphins]

[Miami Dolphins rookies tell the stories of their NFL debuts]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

21 of the most memorable national-anthem moments in sports history

The “Star-Spangled Banner” is back in the news with the decision by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to kneel during the national anthem — not to mention the fact that many fellow NFL players have decided to follow suit.

Four Miami Dolphins made waves this past Sunday — on September 11 — by kneeling during the anthem prior to their game against the Seahawks in Seattle. Many fans, both locally and around the country, have voiced their displeasure with the players’ protests. But the Dolphins players insist their protests will go on.

But this is far from the first time Francis Scott Key’s lyrics have come under fire — either for political or purely comedic reasons.

Below, in chronological order, are 21 of the most memorable national-anthem moments in sports history.

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Anthem protest by some Dolphins unwelcome on 9/11 or any other day

Startling that four Miami Dolphins chose to kneel during the national anthem at the season opener in Seattle. Pleased that most of them stood, however. That’s the kind of unity that America showed and felt after 9/11 but it shouldn’t take a special occasion for every citizen to agree on the following.

Miami Dolphins running back Arian Foster (34) at Miami Dolphins training camp in Davie, Florida on July 31, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Miami Dolphins running back Arian Foster at Miami Dolphins training camp in Davie, Florida on July 31, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Our country is not perfect in every way. Never has been and never will be. There is a system in place, however, to protect everyone from abuses and it is the best one in the world. Improving on it is a shared responsibility, and that includes holding accountable authorities that can’t be trusted to play their proper role.

(RELATED: 21 of the most memorable national-anthem moments in sports history)

Arian Foster, a new Dolphin and a player who never has been afraid to be provocative, put himself out there by kneeling while the anthem was performed at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field. Same goes for Kenny Stills, Jelani Jenkins and Michael Thomas, players who have been with the team longer and were willing to risk the bond they have with fans. Couldn’t immediately tell from the press box if there were others joining them but there didn’t appear to be.

(RELATED: Photo gallery from Dolphins’ tough loss in Seattle)

Apparently they want people talking about the issue of police violence toward minorities, and apparently Chiefs corner Marcus Peters had the same motivation in raising his fist during the anthem in an earlier Sunday game at Kansas City. After the game will come the opportunity to verify the reasons.

For one player to make such a decision, whether he is a San Francisco quarterback or a Dolphins running back or a Chiefs defensive back or anyone else, is accepting the consequences that come with it, and there will be consequences, beginning with many Dolphins fans so disgusted that a couple of touchdown runs or a game-changing interception return won’t soon calm them down.

Asking teammates to join in it calls on other players to pledge allegiance to the concept of team bonding more than anything else. It’s a mixed message, particularly when other players have different experiences and differing views about the greatness of America and the people who put their lives on the line to protect it.

So again, it’s a relief that the Dolphins as a whole didn’t blow this. Fans who are angry about what Colin Kaepernick has started may soften one day, just as most did about Muhammad Ali’s draft dodging, but the constant in this is a shared belief that America is as good as it gets and disrespecting the flag diminishes the sacrifices that have kept it waving all these years.

The Seattle Seahawks’ decision to stand with arms interlocked during the anthem, most people can live with that because they stood. That is no small distinction.

The response of the four protesting Dolphins, on the other hand, gave the impression that America is so far out of whack that it does not deserve to be honored, even symbolically.

That is so different, and on 9/11, it’s so damaging to anything that the players involved mean to represent.