All it took was a few tweets for Stephen Ross to change his mind about NFL player protests.
The Miami Dolphins owner declared Monday night he won’t tolerate any of his players kneeling during the national anthem next season.
“All of our players will be standing,” Ross told the New York Daily News while being honored by the Jackie Robinson Foundation through its ROBIE Lifetime Achievement Award.”
Colin Kaepernick began the movement two years ago, declining to stand during the national anthem as a protest against racial inequality in America. Several Dolphins players continued that movement into 2017 by kneeling before several games last season. At first, Ross was on board with his players’ actions.
“Initially, I totally supported the players in what they were doing,” Ross said Monday. “It’s America and people should be able to really speak about their choices.”
So, what changed? Per the Daily News, Ross’ stance shifted when “he felt the message being sent by players kneeling was a protest against ‘support of our country or the military.’ ”
Of course, the players’ message didn’t change: Their protests were never against the military or the country. But President Donald Trump trumpeted that narrative in a series of tweets and public comments last September, calling for owners to “fire” players who “disrespect our flag” by kneeling during the anthem. And when Trump flipped the narrative, Ross fell in line.
“When that message changed, and everybody was interpreting it as that was the reason, then I was against kneeling,” Ross said. “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.”
To reiterate: The players’ reason for protesting did not change; only the public’s interpretation of their protests did. But it appears Ross would rather his players placate the court of public opinion than exercise their right to peacefully protest.
Ross isn’t an outlier in his thinking, either, as the Houston Texans reportedly plan to avoid free agents who participated in any protests last season.