Dolphins owner retracts statement requiring his players stand during National Anthem

DAVIE, Fla. (WSVN & AP) – Miami Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross retracted a statement he made Monday night requiring his players on the team to stand for the National Anthem.

Ross told a reporter that all Dolphins players will be standing during the National Anthem but a day later, he said he’s correcting that statement because it was misconstrued. He said, Tuesday, that he has no intentions of making his players stand.

The New York Daily News interviewed Ross during his trip to New York where he’s receiving an award from the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

Ross told them, “All of our players will be standing.” During the interview, he said he initially supported the Dolphins players that protested but had a change of heart when he felt it was against “support of our country or the military.”

Ross also told the Daily News, “When that message changed, and everybody was interpreting it as that was the reason, then I was against kneeling. 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.”

Colin Kaepernick started the NFL anthem movement when he was with the San Francisco 49ers in 2016 to protest racial inequality and police brutality. President Donald Trump has criticized the movement, saying it’s disrespectful to service members.

Ross’ comments to the Daily News contradicted what he said to 7News regarding the purpose for the protest and why he joined players on the sideline.

“I think they all know this is an organization that’s totally, 100 percent behind them,” Ross said on Sept. 11, 2016. “I think today what has been brought up is a conversation that needs to be had, and I think they’re doing it in their way, and I applaud them.”

Although, just before noon on Tuesday, Ross retracted his statement and said his comments were misunderstood.

“I have no intention of forcing our players to stand during the anthem, and I regret that my comments have been misconstrued,” he said in a statement. “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 our 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.”

Dolphins players Julius Thomas, Michael Thomas and Kenny Stills knelt during the anthem before games last season. At one point, Coach Adam Gase established a team rule requiring players either to stand for the anthem or stay in the tunnel.

When protesting players told Gase waiting in the tunnel was interfering with their game preparation, he relaxed the rule and allowed them to resume their sideline kneeling.

“We’re not looking to hurt anyone’s feelings,” Stills said. “We’re not looking to disrespect anyone.”

President Donald Trump weighed in on the issue in 2017. “Wouldn’t you love to see these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say, ‘Get that son of a [expletive] off the field right now,'” he said. “‘He’s fired. Fired!'”

Shortly after Trump’s statement, Ross supported his team by kneeling with them.

“They didn’t like the comments being made about them,” Ross told 7News, “and I think it shows there’s a lot of unity, and I think most feel the way the players spoke.”

Sports fans 7News spoke with at a Quarterdeck restaurant said they understand what the players are trying to do.

“I wish that maybe they would take a different platform and do a protest in a different way,” said sports fan Mike Kromke, “but I think down deep what they’re protesting makes sense.”

Stills was the Dolphins’ nominee for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which honors involvement in the community and performance on the field. He’s expected to be back with Miami with 2018, but Julius Thomas and Michael Thomas are less likely to return.

The NFL Players Association said in a statement that they’re proud when their players express themselves with a purpose. They also stated the league said it is a right they will protect, and they are glad to hear that the Dolphins have clarified their position.

Ross has been the Dolphins’ owner since 2008.

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