Stephen Ross, the Dolphins’ billionaire owner, is on Team Trump.
He’s welcoming the president to the Hamptons on Friday for a big-ticket fundraiser in support of President Donald Trump’s reelection.
And that puts him directly at odds with one of his most high-profile players, Kenny Stills, whom Trump called a “son of a [expletive]” just two years ago.
“You can’t have a nonprofit with this mission statement then open your doors to Trump,” Stills wrote on Twitter, sharing both a link to the Washington Post story reporting on the fundraiser and a screen capture from Ross’ anti-racism RISE initiative’s website.
RISE’s mission statement: “We are a national nonprofit that educates and empowers the sports community to eliminate racial discrimination, champion social justice and improve race relations.”
Trump, through his incendiary language about Hispanic immigrants and his racially tinged targeting of four outspoken female members of Congress, does not meet that standard in Stills’ opinion.
Early Wednesday evening, Ross through the Dolphins released a statement on what became a national fascination, if not controversy:
“I always have been an active participant in the democratic process. While some prefer to sit outside of the process and criticize, I prefer to engage directly and support the things I deeply care about.
“I have known Donald Trump for 40 years, and while we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions.
“I started my business with nothing and a reason for my engagement with our leaders is my deep concern for creating jobs and growing our country’s economy.
“I have been, and will continue to be, an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability, and I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle to address these challenges.”
A source familiar with Ross’ thinking told the Herald Ross disagrees with Trump “specifically on the rhetoric around race. ... Stephen’s record on racism speaks for itself. It is possible to support someone in the basis of some things and not agree with everything about them.”
In addition to pouring millions into the successful RISE initiative, Ross has been vocally supportive of Stills’ decision to kneel during the national anthem in protest of racial injustice and police brutality. Trump has seized on NFL players who kneel, saying they disrespect the flag and the troops.
RISE, which stands for the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality, utilizes athletes from across the world of sports to educate and empower with leadership programs, workshops and round-tables and a voter mobilization drive.
Ross has long been a Republican donor and has given more than $160,000 this year to federal candidates and PACs that support them — with the vast majority going to GOP candidates. (He did, however, donate $5,600 this year to the campaign of Democratic Congresswoman Lois Frankel, who represents Florida’s 22nd district.)
The cover charge to get into the Ross-Trump event is steep: $100,000 for a photo with the president and a quarter million to hear a roundtable discussion, the Post reports.
Ross is one of several NFL owners who support Trump. The Jets’ Woody Johnson is the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, while Patriots owner Robert Kraft has long been a fan.
The row comes on the same day the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame announced Wednesday that Ross will be inducted into the NFF Leadership Hall of Fame on Aug. 28.
“Stephen Ross has built a reputation as one of the top business leaders in our country today,” NFF Chairman Archie Manning said. “His induction into the NFF Leadership Hall of Fame will allow us to shine a light on his significant accomplishments and his many philanthropic contributions. His remarkable leadership skills and ability to inspire others represent the same set of traits learned on the football field, and we are extremely proud to add his name to the esteemed list of inductees in the NFF Leadership Hall of Fame. He clearly has defined himself as a leader whose life deserves to be emulated.”