Three Miami Dolphins players who have continued their protests during the playing of the national anthem -- tight end Julius Thomas, defensive back Michael Thomas and receiver Kenny Stills -- are expected to be in New York Tuesday to meet with league owners and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on the topic of those contentious protests.
The three Dolphins will join dozens of other players invited to the meeting.
The Miami players have lately accepted the Dolphins team policy of staying in the locker room during the playing of America’s anthem while the rest of their teammates have stood on the sideline prior to kickoff. The three then rejoin the team after the anthem is over.
Stills also displayed a clenched fist “celebration” after he caught a TD pass Sunday in Miami’s 20-17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
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Before the Dolphins anthem policy was instituted by coach Adam Gase prior to the Oct. 8 game against Tennessee, all three players knelt during the American anthem the previous week in London. They stood for the British national anthem.
Tuesday’s meeting will also be attended by owners, including Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, and representatives of the NFL Players Association.
The NFL has said it will try to devise a plan that would bridge the protesting players’ desires to make their social causes known but the league has pushed back hard on the idea it will simply require players to stand during the anthem.
“I’m not anticipating anything,” league spokesman Joe Lockhart said Monday when asked if a rule would be enacted.
It is unclear if people representing the majority side of this issue will be represented at this meeting. A vast majority of NFL players stand during the anthem before every game -- for the Dolphins, 43 of 46 active players have been standing the past two games. More knelt the previous week as a protest to the president, who had called players who kneel a vulgar name.
Numerous owners have said they wish their players would stand, led by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
Ross has apparently evolved on his stance. Last year he was enthusiastically supportive of the players protesting but prior to the Oct. 8 home opener, Ross said that President Donald Trump had “changed the whole paradigm of what the protest is,” in that many Americans view the anthem protests as disrespecting the flag and country. Therefore, Ross said, he wished players would stand.
Stills and Thomas have a history of community service and activism that includes reaching out in the local community to make their feelings about social issues understood. They have said they are not anti police and indeed have helped fund tailgate meetups between local officers and minority communities. They have also gone on ride-alongs with police officers to get a better understanding what those first-responders deal with on a daily basis.
Lockhart stated there been “no impact on ticket sales,” for NFL games ostensibly because of fans rejecting the league over the protests. And he has said television ratings remain strong.
But that does not address no-shows at NFL games which reportedly are up this season, leading to empty seats, and independent data that confirms ratings to be soft and often lower than in the past.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero