Five months after famously taking a knee, Michael Thomas still stands for social justice -- knowing full well that doing so might earn him a few more scars.
Thomas, the Dolphins’ veteran safety, joined the national conversation on race by kneeling during the national anthem before every Dolphins game in 2016. The demonstration’s purpose: to protest police mistreatment of African-Americans around the country.
That conversation will continue here Friday, when Thomas and 11 other current and former players will participate in a town hall forum on race relations ahead of Super Bowl 51.
Ex-Dolphin Brandon Marshall, Hall of Fame corner Aeneas Williams and Lions receiver Anquan Boldin are among the participants.
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Stephen Ross’ anti-racism RISE Initiative organized the event, which “will review lessons learned from the activist athlete in the 2016 NFL season and propose solution-oriented next steps for the sports industry to drive social change.”
Thomas already has tried. Along with teammates Kenny Stills and Jelani Jenkins, who also took a symbolic knee in 2016, Thomas has developed a constructive dialogue with the Broward Sheriff’s Office. The three players held events with Broward’s biggest law enforcement department, and went on a ridealong in December.
For Thomas, the progress is a rewarding payoff for a personal crusade that, in his view, is as important as it’s unpopular in some circles. Thomas and his teammates opened themselves up to criticism by many who viewed their demonstration as disrespectful to the flag and the nation it represents.
“One or two days throughout the season, I found myself questioning if I did the right thing,” Thomas told the Miami Herald this week.
Thomas continued: ‘There were times like, ‘Dang, all throughout my whole career, it’s been nothing but heartfelt, good guy stories.’ When I decided to take the action, I got the backlash. I found myself at times, a day or so, questioning, is it worth it?’”
That doubt faded away once he heard from supporters who thanked him for articulating their concerns in such a high-profile way.
And with publicly displays of hate speech on the rise, coinciding with the presidential election, there’s plenty of reason for concern, Thomas believes.
“Before, anybody who’s had those feelings, they’d conceal it,” Thomas said. “But at this point, with where we’re at as a nation, they feel like they don’t have to hide it any longer. That’s why we’re seeing drastic increases in racist comments and slurs. ... I’ve always known than that’s been out there. But people are a little more confident these days.”