What to Know
- Speaking in New York City at an event, Stephen Ross said that all players will be standing during the 2018 season.
- Ross said his feeling changed when he felt the message of the kneeling became a protest of the country and the military.
- In the same interview, Ross said he had conversations with another South Florida sports owner – new Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter.
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is on the defensive Tuesday, refuting quotes made to a New York newspaper saying all players will be standing during the 2018 season.
“I have no intention of forcing our players to stand during the anthem and I regret that my comments have been misconstrued,’" Ross said in a statement. "I’ve shared my opinion with all our players: I’m passionate about the cause of social justice and I feel that kneeling is an ineffective tactic that alienates more people than it enlists."
During a Monday event honoring his work, Ross seemed to be making a complete turn on that position, saying his feeling changed when he felt the message of the kneeling became a protest of the country and the military – a message that was promoted by President Donald Trump.
"Initially, I totally supported the players in what they were doing," Ross said in an interview with the New York Daily News. "It's America and people should be able to really speak about their choices."
“When that message changed, and everybody was interpreting it as that was the reason, then I was against kneeling," said Ross. "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.”
Amid backlash for some over the possible position change, Ross was quick to attempt a do-over.
“I know our players care about the military and law enforcement too because I’ve seen the same players who are fighting for social justice engaging positively with law enforcement and the military," he wrote.
Ross created a fund during the 2017 season for social justice programs and to help community groups promoting reforms and education – the same issues that players began kneeling about starting the season before.
Dolphins players Julius Thomas, Michael Thomas and Kenny Stills knelt during the anthem before games last season. At one point coach Adam Gase established a team rule requiring players either to stand for the anthem or stay in the tunnel.
When protesting players told Gase waiting in the tunnel was interfering with their game preparation, he relaxed the rule and allowed them to resume their sideline kneeling.
Stills was the Dolphins' nominee for the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which honors involvement in the community and performance on the field. He's expected to be back with Miami with 2018, but Julius Thomas and Michael Thomas are less likely to return.
In the same interview, Ross said he had conversations with another South Florida sports owner – new Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter – about running a team in the area.
"Miami is a great city. It's not a great sports town," said Ross. "(The Marlins) haven't been winning. (Jeter) has to start all over again. I think you have to be patient and give him the time it's going to take to build a winner. He's a very smart, capable guy. He was a great baseball player. Hopefully he'll be a great executive. The best way to get a fan base is to win. Winning solves all solutions."