Moments before four Miami Dolphins players took a knee during the National Anthem on September 11, 2016, safety Michael Thomas says he was "nervous as hell."
"I remember it like it was yesterday," said Thomas, who spoke at a town hall meeting about social injustice Monday night.
Thomas recalled how his mind was racing. Then, he shared how a conversation with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross gave him the courage to join Colin Kaepernick's controversial protest.
"I saw Mr. Ross come in the locker room and I go up to him and try to explain to him we're thinking about taking a knee," Thomas said. "And for him to stop me and say, 'look Mike, whatever ya'll choose to do today, I got your back 100 percent,' that's just a testament to what type of person he is. How he truly feels about equality for all."
Thomas told the story to a group of students participating in the Jason Taylor Foundation's "Louder Than a Bomb" poetry festival at Nova Southeastern University in Davie.
"It's great to have the owner of the Dolphins have that perspective. It would be great to have more owners take after him," Thomas said. "For him to be not only cool with it, but support his players with it, that speaks volumes to what type of person he is."
Wide receiver Kenny Stills, who also took a knee during the anthem, joined Thomas on the town hall panel. Stills said some of his own teammates were far less supportive during a closed-door players-only meeting before the game.
"That conversation became awkward very quickly," Stills said. "I saw a side of certain people that day that I didn't think they had, or didn't expect from them. It definitely made me think a little bit differently about some of the people on the team."
Monday night's town hall was organized in part by Ross's "Rise" Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality. The Dolphins owner launched the non-profit to promote understanding, respect and equality.