Miami Dolphins players no longer will be permitted to kneel during the National Anthem, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said Monday at an event in New York.
“All of our players will be standing," Ross told the New York Daily News at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, where he was honored by the Jackie Robinson Foundation with its ROBIE Lifetime Achievement Award.
Ross’ policy will affect at least one player: receiver Kenny Stills, who kneeled during the anthem last season to protest social injustices.
Julius Thomas and Michael Thomas also kneeled, but Julius Thomas is expected to be released and Michael Thomas is an impending free agent.
After allowing players to kneel early last season, the Dolphins last October asked players who wanted to kneel - meaning those three - to stay behind in the locker-room.
But the Dolphins changed course in early November, permitting those players to kneel on the sideline for the final two months of the season. The players said they appreciated coach Adam Gase allowing them to do that so that their pre-game routine wouldn’t be affected.
Ross initially supported the players taking a knee because “it's America and people should be able to really speak about their choices.”
But Ross changed his mind because he believed their kneeling was being perceived as a protest against “support of our country or the military.”
Ross also referenced President Donald Trump, who last season called for the firing of players who kneeled during the anthem.
“When that message changed, and everybody was interpreting [kneeling] 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. 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."
Ross has advocated social change perhaps more than any other NFL owner and has contributed more than $7 million in funding the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), which is a non-profit aimed toward using sports to “bring people together to promote understanding, respect and equality.”
Ross said he keeps in touch with Trump and added that the president "is concentrated on making the country better."
Also in that interview with The New York Daily News, Ross said he has spoken with new Marlins owner Derek Jeter.
“Miami is a great city. It's not a great sports town," Ross said. [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."