The Miami Dolphins' Stephen Ross was one of several owners who said in depositions that President Donald Trump played a role in conversations about how NFL teams should handle national anthem protests, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“I was totally supportive of [the players] until Trump made his statement,” Ross said in his deposition before going on to say he thought Trump "changed the dialogue." Ross also acknowledged that he believed the protests were hurting the Dolphins financially, according to the Journal, and that he felt NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was influenced by Trump's comments.
Ross, a known social justice advocate who has created programs such as the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), has said multiple times, including to the Miami Herald, that the president has influenced anthem discussions.
“They informed the coach that they couldn’t, in their conscience, stay in the tunnel. They wanted to go out,” Ross wrote in his deposition, according to the Journal.
The depositions were taken prior to the league's national anthem policy change, which was made May 23. Under the new policy, players and league personnel on the sideline will be required to stand during the national anthem. If they don't want to stand, they will have the option to remain in the locker room. At the time of the announcement, the Dolphins said they had no comment on the policy.
Last season, three Dolphins did not stand for the anthem for most of the season — receiver Kenny Stills, tight end Julius Thomas and safety Michael Thomas. Of those three, only Stills is still with the team. All said they were protesting social issues, including law enforcement treatment of African Americans.
Several other Dolphins, including left tackle Laremy Tunsil, did not stand for the anthem during the Dolphins' road game against the New York Jets on Sept. 24, which came days after Trump said any player who didn't stand for the anthem is a “son of a bitch.”