Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross says all players on his team will stand for the national anthem starting next season.
“All of our players will be standing,” Ross told the New York Daily News on Monday.
Wide receiver Kenny Stills, safety Michael Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas knelt during the anthem several times during the 2017 season. Only Stills is likely to be with the Dolphins next season, as Michael Thomas is set to become a free agent later this month and Julius Thomas is likely to be released.
“Initially, I totally supported the players in what they were doing,” Ross said. “It’s America, and people should be able to really speak about their choices.”
But Ross told the newspaper he came to the standing decision because he felt the message being sent by kneeling players was unpatriotic and anti-military, an interpretation that was taken by President Donald Trump.
“When that message changed, and everybody was interpreting it as that was the reason, then I was against kneeling,” Ross told the Daily News. “I like Donald [Trump]. I don’t support everything that he says. Overall, I think he was trying to make a point, and his message became what kneeling was all about. From that standpoint, that is the way the public is interpreting it. So I think that’s really incumbent upon us to adopt that. That’s how, I think, the country now is interpreting the kneeling issue.”
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem in the 2016 season. He and other players have said they knelt to raise awareness about racial injustice and police brutality.
The NFL has proposed partnering with players to effect social justice change with a plan that would contribute nearly $100 million to causes considered important to African-American communities. The hope is that the league’s commitment would create an environment in which players would no longer want to protest. The plan, however, has met resistance from some players, including Michael Thomas and Stills.
Ross did not say what the consequences would be if a Dolphins player chose to kneel during the anthem in 2018. Last season, Dolphins coach Adam Gase had established a team rule requiring players to either stand for the anthem or stay in the tunnel but later told players that if they wanted to kneel, they could do it and wouldn’t be punished.
The Dolphins owner was in New York to be honored with the ROBIE Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jackie Robinson Foundation. On its website, the foundation recognized Ross’ work in the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality to improve race relations and drive social progress.