Barry Jackson

Dolphins players want to know why NFL doesn’t voice support for issues they kneel for

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills (10) runs for a touch down on a fourth quarter reception as the Miami Dolphins host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Hard Rock Stadium on Sun., Nov. 19, 2017.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills (10) runs for a touch down on a fourth quarter reception as the Miami Dolphins host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Hard Rock Stadium on Sun., Nov. 19, 2017. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Michael Thomas and Kenny Stills assuredly understand some fans are upset to see players kneel during the national anthem, something they’ve done for much of the season.

What they cannot understand is why the NFL hasn’t publicly expressed support for the issues fueling their protest — racism in America and incidents of police brutality against African Americans.

That was one of several factors in both of those players’ decisions this week to step away from a players coalition designed to address those issues with the league.

The decision of several players leaving the coalition — Eric Reid also is leaving — coincides with league owners offering the players a deal in which they would donate $89 million toward social justice, according to ESPN.

At about $12 million annually, the proposal is the largest financial commitment toward a charitable cause in league history. Owners hope that the deal will end the practice of players kneeling during the national anthem before games, though the league will not require that and players did not agree to end the protests as a condition of the proposal.

Thomas released this statement on Wednesday: “With much thought and consideration, I’ve decided to officially withdraw my involvement in the players coalition founded by Malcolm Jenkins and Anquan Boldin.

“The Players Coalition was supposed to be formed as a group that represents NFL athletes who have been silently protesting social injustices and racism. However, Malcolm and Anquan can no longer speak on our behalf as we don’t believe the coalition’s beliefs are in our best interests as a whole.

“We will continue to have dialogue with the league to find equitable solutions but without Malcolm and Anquan as our representatives.”

Asked in the Dolphins locker room to expand on his decision, Thomas said: “It came down to this latest proposal being something I can’t put my name on, and say with everything I sacrificed — my name, put my family in jeopardy, my career, saying this latest proposal is something I put my name on, saying this is why I took a stance.

“It’s not significant enough for me. Way more can be done…. We tried to have more guys included in that. Not enough people felt they were included in the right way.... I don’t think it’s significant enough. I don’t believe the terms are favorable for the players. So much more can be done.”

Here’s one thing that Thomas and Stills wanted, according to Thomas: “A statement saying we support our players” and the issues they’re standing (or kneeling) for. “We got every reason why they would do and never did do it. We got every reason why they couldn’t do it.”

Stills put it this way: “This whole thing could have gone a different way if the league got out there and spoke out against the things we’re talking about, the things we’re protesting for. That was part of the reason.

“How hard is it for people to come out and say they’re against racism, they’re for equality. That’s what we want to hear…. The majority of this league is African American. And we’re saying there are issues in this country that need to be addressed and we would like them to be addressed.”

Stills also said “things are moving a little too fast. We want the opportunity to have our voices heard.”

To his credit, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has been out in front on racial issues in sports and launched the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) in 2015.

He personally funds the budget, which is about $3.5 million per year, and has contributed more than $7 million since it was launched in 2015.

Since its founding, RISE programs have reached more than 30,000 students, coaches and athletic staff at the high school, collegiate and professional level. Also, the Dolphins created a yearly fund for advocacy and social justice programs that will highlight groups and organizations in South Florida centered around community engagement, education and justise reform.

NOTABLE

• The Dolphins claimed tight end A.J. Derby off waivers from Denver. He caught 19 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns this season for Denver, which released him Tuesday with an injury settlement.

He started one game for Denver this season and three last season. The Patriots drafted him in the sixth round out of Arkansas in 2015 and traded him to Denver a year later.

The Dolphins waived receiver Rayshawn Scott, leaving them without any UM players on the 53 man roster, though Malcolm Lewis is on the practice squad.

▪  Kenyan Drake, the only healthy running back on the roster who has ever had an NFL carry, said his conditioning is good enough to log a heavy load on Sunday against Denver.

“It’s about catching a second wind,” he said. Because he practices in heat, “I will be more prepared than anybody who comes down here.”

Drake has had two long runs, but also two fumbles, in four games since Jay Ajayi was traded.

“My whole thing is consistency,” he said. “It’s every play is not going to be a home run, knowing they can trust me.”

Of the fumbles, he said: “I am my own worst critic. I am going to be way harder than anyone can be.”

Drake worked on ball security at practice Wednesday. “When falling down, make sure the ball is secure and go down with two hands.”

▪ Stills said reports in Boston of a running dialogue with Tom Brady during Sunday’s Patriots-Dolphins game was “taken out of context.”

According to NBC Sports Boston, Stills told Patriots players during Sunday’s game “You’re afraid of us” and that Miami would beat New England if the Dolphins (who are second in the NFL in penalties) were more disciplined.

According to NBC Sports Boston, Stills admitted after the game he was “hollering” at Brady throughout New England’s 35-17 win. “We feel like if we can get in his head, that’s the best way to try and win this game,” Stills said. “I was trying to do my part.”

NBC also reported that Stills and Brady exchanged words after Miami nearly sacked him, and after Brady then threw an interception, Stills jumped up and down on Miami’s sideline and pointed to his own helmet.

▪ Damien Williams (shoulder), Jermon Bushrod (foot), Matt Moore (foot), Thomas (knee) and Mo Smith (abdomen) sat out practice.

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