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Stephen Ross talks Dolphins players kneeling during National Anthem

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NFL: Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins had three players who knelt during the National Anthem throughout the 2018 season. Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas, and Julius Thomas all continued to show their frustration with the inequality they see within the United States. Although the Dolphins briefly attempted to stop the display by asking the players to stay in the locker room during the National Anthem, coach Adam Gase changed that policy and the players were again on the sideline, kneeling.

Owner Stephen Ross has continually stood by the players and their rights to express themselves. On Monday at an event in which the Jackie Robinson Foundation honored Ross with the ROBIE Lifetime Acheivement Award for Ross’ work in founding the Ross Intitiative for Sports Equality, RISE, which has focused on addressing equlity througout sports as well as using sports as a method to promote equlity. RISE has also worked throughout this past year on voter registation initiatives throughout the NFL, with the Dolphins successfully registering all 75 players (active, injured, and practice squad) players on their roster this season.

All of our players will be standing,” Ross told the New York Daily News during the Jackie Robinson Foundation event, appearing to suggest the team could be ending the demonstrations. ”Initially, I totally supported the players in what they were doing. It’s America and people should be able to really speak about their choices.”

Ross then explained why he is looking for the Dolphins to have all players standing next year, mostly due to the message of kneeling changing from the initial message of the players to a message of perceived dishonor to the flag, the country, and the military. ”When that message changed, and everybody was interpreting it as that was the reason, then I was against kneeling,” said Ross. “I like Donald (Trump). I don’t support everything that he says. Overall, I think he was trying to make a point, and his message became what kneeling was all about. From that standpoint, that is the way the public is interpreting it. So I think that’s really incumbent upon us to adopt that. That’s how, I think, the country now is interpreting the kneeling issue.”

On Tuesday, the Dolphins released a satement from Ross, clarifying that he will not be forcing players to stand. “I have no intention of forcing our players to stand during the anthem and I regret that my comments have been misconstrued,” Ross said. “I’ve shared my opinion with all our players: I’m passionate about the cause of social justice and I feel that kneeling is an ineffective tactic that alienates more people than it enlists. I know out players care about the military and law enforcement too because I’ve seen the same players who are fighting for social justice engaging positively with law enforcement and the military. I care passionately that the message of social justice resonates far and wide and I will continue to support and fund efforts for those who fight for equality for all.”

Of the three players who were kneeling last year, only Stills appears to be a lock to return to the team. Michael Thomas is set to become a free agent, while the Dolphins are believed to be planning to release Julius Thomas.