Fabiola Santiago

Dolphins owner has right to support a racist president – and we to slam him for it | Opinion

Like every American, citizen Stephen Ross has the right to fund, endorse, and support President Donald Trump’s re-election bid with all the passion his political heart and pocketbook desire.

But by hosting in his Hamptons home a pricey fundraiser for a president who has proven through his disparaging words and actions that he is a racist, the owner of the Miami Dolphins forgot the heart in the ‘Miami’ part of his team’s name.

Ours is a multicultural, multiracial region, the gateway to the hemisphere and the antithesis of all President Trump represents from the White House: the interests and agenda of a rich, nationalist, white-only America. We are about inclusion, not exclusion.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross

Ross forgets that his Hard Rock Stadium thrives in an African American community similar to the one the president recently bashed in unhinged Twitter rants filled with racial prejudice as a “a disgusting rodent-infested mess” in Baltimore.

Like the Baltimore congressman Trump nastily assailed in racist outbursts, civil rights icon Elijah Cummings, Miami-Dade’s District 24 is also represented by a prominent African American with a storied history of service, hat maven Frederica Wilson.

Wilson stood up to Trump when he disrespected the widow of fallen African American Army Sgt. La David Johnson and when he began separating immigrant children from their parents and incarcerating them thousands of miles from each other.

Her opposition to Trump has cost Wilson dearly.

After wearing cowboy-styled hats for a lifetime, Wilson has had to temper the practice because of a serious threat from the riled-up Trump crowd, warning her how easy to recognize she is as a target for harm.

She declined to speak to me about the Ross controversy Thursday.

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These aren’t normal times by any stretch of the imagination — and the president’s vulgar, hatred-filled rhetoric from the White House largely sets the vitriolic tone.

Do you really think Miami needs the owner of its football team to fund this despicable president another term?

Our community is reeling from Trump’s immigration policies and his all but destroying the Affordable Care Act that hundreds of thousands counted on for health insurance. The president’s vulgar denunciations of NFL players who peacefully protest police brutality and racism by taking a knee during the national anthem have included our Miami Dolphins players, too.

Our community has been offended by this president when he’s called the places we came from “s---hole” countries and told American minority congresswomen to “go back” to the countries they’re from, one of the most bandied about epithets by racists in Miami.

Did Ross forget the Cuban-American Dolphins minority owners he celebrated in 2009, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, who’ve been told “some version,” as they put it in an interview, of “go back to Cuba”?

Gloria and Emilio Estefan announce their minority share ownership of the Miami Dolphins along with owner Stephen Ross in 2009. El Nuevo Herald

“The Estefans are no longer affiliated with the Miami Dolphins,” a spokesman told me Thursday, declining to elaborate. “Terms are confidential.”

Whatever the reason, it seems as if you can’t dance a conga and embrace a racist, too, Mr. Ross.

As one of the more supposedly equality-enlightened NFL owners, supporting a president who has made it his administration’s signature initiative to pursue an anti-immigrant and racially biased agenda is not the kind of move we associated with Ross — up to now.

Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills, who Trump called “a son of a b---h” two years ago for taking a knee during the national anthem, explained the disappointment best, tweeting about the misalignment of Ross’ support for Trump and his charitable Rise, which stands for “Ross initiative in sports equality.”

“You can’t have a nonprofit with this mission statement then open your doors to Trump,” Stills wrote.

Stills was brave — and, oh, so right — to call out his team’s owner.

Ross’ excuse for supporting Trump by hosting in his home a fundraiser — where people will pay $100,000 for a photo with the president and $250,000 to listen in on a round table discussion — doesn’t add up to much.

In a statement, he claimed a 40-year friendship with Trump and said that his support doesn’t mean he agrees with everything Trump has done.

“… While we agree on some issues,” he said, “we strongly disagree on many others and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions.”

That sounds wonderfully democratic — and if this were another president, maybe I could buy it.

But if he has stood up to Trump’s history of racism — which dates back to his family’s refusal to rent to blacks in New York — his opinions have fallen on deaf ears.

The president hasn’t shown any remorse for unrelenting incendiary speech that has emboldened angry white nationalists to act with violence.

Thanks to deep-pocketed billionaires like Ross we may have to endure the Divider in Chief another four years. But for now, activists, celebrities and ordinary Americans are calling for boycotts of Ross-owned companies and luxury brands, including The Related Companies, Hudson Yards, Equinox, and SoulCycle.

As for the Dolphins, we could use better team ownership that truly understood to what depths this president is shredding the moral fiber of this country.

Good team ownership goes hand in hand with fan support.

Can the Dolphins’ owner afford to offend and discard the feelings of a large part of this community?

The recent years of empty seats ought to answer that question for citizen Ross.

Award-winning columnist Fabiola Santiago has been writing about all things Miami since 1980, when the Mariel boatlift became her first front-page story. A Cuban refugee child of the Freedom Flights, she’s also the author of essays, short fiction, and the novel “Reclaiming Paris.”