In a racially charged time in the NFL, Steve Ross is the anti-Jerry Jones.
Ross encourages his players to speak out on social issues. Jones threatens to bench Cowboys players who want to take a knee.
Ross views Dolphins players as long-term partners — hosting an annual business summit during the offseason — and recently created a Project Change Scholarship, which will provide four years of college tuition for a high school student to impact their lives so they can make a change in their community. The team also will sponsor programs associated with the Police Athletic League of North Miami, the team announced Saturday.
Dolphins safety Michael Thomas, one of three Miami players to kneel in protest of racial inequality during the national anthem Sunday, came up with the scholarship idea while brainstorming recently with Ross.
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“Everybody is trying to say ‘Okay, what’s going to come out of you players who are protesting. What are you all trying to do in the community?’” Thomas said. “Obviously it’s trying to make improvements in our community and trying to see real change. One of the things I’ve been harping on for a while is trying to get some type of academic scholarship for the underprivileged youth here in Miami. I think that’s something the Dolphins can definitely do and after talking to them for a while, it finally got approved.”
And it got approved because of an open, steady line of communication between Ross and Dolphins players.
They talk regularly on most every issue but football. Ndamukong Suh is particularly close with Ross, but it’s not just the stars who get special treatment.
Thomas plays mostly on the kick teams. And while his exposure is greater locally because of his activism and community involvement, he is far from a household name.
“There’s definitely communication,” Thomas said. “I mean he’s definitely been involved with us from the jump. Always asking us what he can do, what can the Dolphins do to get ahead of this conversation, to not make it where it’s about the protest anymore; but trying to have real change in the community.”
When asked how often they speak, Thomas responded: “Periodically. Obviously he’s a busy man. He is who he is for a reason; but when we do get a chance to talk. it’s always about solutions. It’s always about what can we do to move forward.”