Barry Jackson

Miami Dolphins owner departs NFL committee focused on social justice

Wide receiver Kenny Stills comments on Dolphins owner Stephen Ross holding a fundraiser for President Donald Trump

Wide receiver Kenny Stills comments on Dolphins owner Stephen Ross holding a fundraiser for Donald Trump on August 8, 2019.
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Wide receiver Kenny Stills comments on Dolphins owner Stephen Ross holding a fundraiser for Donald Trump on August 8, 2019.

Appearing on a video on Sports Illustrated released Tuesday, former NFL defensive lineman Chris Long announced that Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross had agreed to step down from the league’s Working Group Committee, which is comprised of players and owners and focuses on various social justice issues facing the league.

The Dolphins said this was Ross’ decision and he wasn’t dismissed from the committee.

Ross was one of the committee’s founding members in 2018 but drew criticism from Stills and some fans after holding a recent fund-raiser for President Donald Trump.

Long explained Ross’ departure from the committee on Twitter, saying Ross’ support of Trump presented a conflict of interest.

”We’ve worked with a number of owners who lean conservative and have even supported Trump in the past. However (and I have no idea why I’m explaining this because you’ll never concede the point).....

“He held a fundraiser for a guy who called protesting players “sons of bitches” + campaigned for them to lose jobs. The working group is directly involved. You can see how that’s a conflict of interest that transcends politics. I respect SR’s work with RISE. Don’t get it? Can’t help.”

RISE is Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality, a group founded by Ross that seeks “the unifying power of sports to improve race relations.”

A Dolphins spokesperson said: “Stephen made the decision last week and informed the NFL and members of the working committee that he was going to step aside from the group and continue to focus his efforts on RISE. He believes in and is still fully committed to the work that has been done by the group and will always be a passionate supporter and tireless advocate for social justise causes, the fight for equal rights and education.”

Meanwhile, in an eyebrow raising move, Dolphins coach Brian Flores opened practice Tuesday with songs by an artist who was criticized by one his players this week for his handling of a race-related issue with the NFL.

During the 30 minutes that the media is permitted to watch practice, the Dolphins played eight consecutive songs by Jay-Z, a day after receiver Kenny Stills criticized Jay-Z for his approach in his new role with the NFL.

Jay-Z — whose entertainment company Roc Nation, was hired to help manage aspects of the NFL’s entertainment and social justice ventures — met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and other league officials last week and said “I think we’re past kneeling” and made no issue of Colin Kaepernick’s inability to find a job in the NFL three years after he routinely knelt during the National Anthem to protest social justice issues, including systematic racism and police brutality.

Stills, who continues to kneel as a way to call attention to those issues, said he “felt like Shawn Carter [Jay-Z] really discredited Colin and myself and the work that’s being done in our communities. I think he could’ve handled the whole situation differently.”

Asked why the Dolphins played eight consecutive Jay-Z songs a day after Stills’ comments, the team did not have an explanation but said coach Brian Flores picks songs for practice and that Stills knew in advance that Flores would do this.

The Dolphins cautioned that Flores was not trying to disrespect Stills but offered no explanation for Flores’ decision.

So it’s unclear if Flores was trying to needle Stills, push him to respond, or had something entirely different motivation.

Stills wasn’t approached by reporters Tuesday while quarterback press conferences were ongoing, and it’s unclear if he was bothered by this.

On Monday, Stills, asked to elaborate on what Carter could have done differently in his new role with the NFL.

“Well, I mean I could go on a list of things that I felt like could’ve been done or handled in a better fashion, and I don’t really don’t want to get into that. But for the most part, what I’m trying to say to people is let’s work towards solutions and let’s wait and see what goes down from this deal. You can’t really tell right now. It doesn’t sit right with me. I don’t think that it was handled the right way, but you never know.”

Asked by reporters what didn’t sit right with him, Stills said Jay-Z “could’ve reached out to Colin. He could’ve reached out to me. Some of the ways that he answered his questions. He’s talking about, ‘we’re moving past kneeling,’ like he ever protested. He’s not an NFL player. He’s never been on a knee. Just choosing to speak for the people like he had spoken to the people.

“...I wonder how many common people that he knows or that he’s spoken to. I wonder if he’s read my Facebook comments or my Instagram comments or some of the things that people say to me. To be able to speak on and say that we’re moving past something, it didn’t seem very informed.”

Stills, who has done considerable community work to help young people and raise awareness of social issues, said he plans to continue kneeling this season to call attention to key issues.

“People think that it’s a patriotism issue, and people think that’s a social justice issue, and people think that we don’t have an issue in our country,” he said. “...There’s a lot of confusion still out there. There’s a lot of people that comment on my page and have never looked at any of the work that I’ve done or any of the work that Colin’s done.

“Do some research before you’re just out here like, trying to discredit people and put people down. If you want to have a constructive conversation, do a little research, and then let’s talk about something. Leave your feelings out of it, leave your emotions of it, and come with some factual things and speak civilized. If you can’t agree on something, then agree to disagree and then go your way.”

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