With the NFL and the league’s players’ union at a standstill regarding its policy on national anthem protests, two Miami Dolphins continued to kneel during the anthem pregame on Thursday.
Receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson, who is entering his first season with the Dolphins, each took a knee on the sideline prior to Miami’s preseason opener against Tampa Bay.
“It was something I was going to do regardless if he was there or not,” Wilson said. “But to have somebody as passionate about the situation as I am is great that we can do it together.”
Defensive end Robert Quinn did not kneel, but he raised his right arm with a clenched fist as he did last season as a member of the Los Angeles Rams.
Stills, the most visible Dolphin in the growing number of athletes that have used that moment to protest against police brutality and racial inequality, has knelt during the anthem for the majority of the team’s games over the past two seasons.
Stills and Wilson both said they did not plan to kneel side by side Thursday night.
“No, no, it just happened that way,” Stills said. “If you guys pay attention, most of the time I’m praying. I thank God for having Albert next to me. Being a part of this protest hasn’t been easy. I thought I was going to be by myself out there, and today I had an angel with me with Albert being out there. I’m grateful that he sees what’s happening and he wants to do something about it as well.”
Stills did so initially with support from Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross, who then later stated that he wished his players would stand for the anthem. Stills continued to protest more frequently in the wake of comments made by President Donald Trump accusing players of disrespecting the American flag.
Wilson, whom the Dolphins signed during the offseason, sat for the anthem at least once last year doing so as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs before their Week 5 game against the Houston Texans.
“I’m on a platform that I have the right to protest,” Wilson said. “It’s a peaceful protest. We’re not harming anybody. We just want people to continue to know what’s going on.”
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was the first to refuse to stand during the anthem in 2016, tweeted late Thursday night in support of Stills and Wilson.
Kaepernick tweeted a picture of him and Stills wearing T-shirts that read: “I know my rights” with a post that read: “My brother @kstills continued his protest of systemic oppression tonight by taking a knee. Albert Wilson @iThinkIsee12 joined him in protest. Stay strong brothers! @footcandles #imwithkap #imwithereid #takeaknee”
Stills said he appreciated the support from Kaepernick.
“I talk to my brother every other week,” Stills said. “We stay in contact. I appreciate his love and support. I don’t see any reason why he and Eric Reid shouldn’t be in the league as well.”
The NFL recently suspended its rule regarding anthem protests until the league and the players’ union can come to terms on one.
The NFL issued a written statement in response to players kneeling during Thursday’s games:
“The NFL has been engaged in constructive discussions with the NFL Players Association regarding the anthem and issues of equality and social justice that are of concern to many Americans. While those discussions continue, the NFL has agreed to delay implementing or enforcing any club work rules that could result in players being disciplined for their conduct during the performance of the anthem.”
“Meanwhile, there has been no change in the NFL’s policy regarding the national anthem,” the league’s statement said. “The anthem will continue to be played before every game, and all player and non-player personnel on the field at that time are expected to stand during the presentation of the flag and performance of the anthem. Personnel who do not wish to do so can choose to remain in the locker room.
“We remain committed to working with the players to identify solutions and to continue making progress on important social issues affecting our communities.”
Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase appeared irritated earlier this week when asked by the media if he’d give his players any instructions on that intended to kneel.
“I’m not instructing anybody for anything,” Gase said.
The NFL intended to forbid players from kneeling in the spring, saying that those that do could be suspended or fined by their team.
The Dolphins put that rule in writing before the start of training camp, but only as “a placeholder” until a more comprehensive policy was implemented, according to Ross.
The rulebook was leaked to the Associated Press and set off a firestorm that convinced the NFL to suspend the rule and work with the NFLPA to come up with a new one.
When asked after the game what would need to happen for him to no longer protest, Quinn responded:
“Bring heaven here on earth. That means you love your neighbor like you love your mother, your father. If you see look at someone struggling, you help that person because you’re doing right in life. If you see someone struggling, you don’t treat someone as if they’re lesser than you. ... Until people can act like that, we’re just going to be living on the other side of heaven.”