Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said on Monday his players would be standing during the national anthem before clarifying his comments and saying he would not force his team to stand.
Ross delivered his initial statements in Times Square, where the Jackie Robinson Foundation honored him with its ROBIE Lifetime Achievement Award for being a “longtime champion of equal opportunity.”
“All of our players will be standing” during the anthem Ross said on Monday. He offered a clarification less than 24 hours later.
“I have no intention of forcing our players to stand during the anthem and I regret that my comments have been misconstrued,” he told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “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.”
The kneeling protests began when quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest racial injustice, police brutality, and the criminal justice system. Reams of publicity contorted the initial intention of the peaceful protest, transforming it into a contentious national debate that encompassed a range of issues, including respect for the military, the flag, and the president. Ross’ comments reflected the disconnect between the protesters’ intentions and their perceived motivations.
“Initially, I totally supported the players in what they were doing,” Ross said. “It’s America and people should be able to really speak about their choices.”
But he said that his opinion of the protest changed when he perceived it to be disrespectful toward the military or country.
The issue of athletes using their platforms to espouse political opinions has recently garnered significant national attention. Fox News host Laura Ingraham told Lebron James to “shut up and dribble” last month after he voiced his discontent with President Donald Trump. Attempting to stifle athletes’ political opinions is an anti-democratic approach to facing differing political opinions. These athletes are not espousing hate speech; they are attempting to draw attention to political issues that directly affect them.
Ross has redacted his initial comments, which should be acknowledged. While his clarification hints at a desire to promote open discourse, it seems he is missing the intention of the protest. The kneeling began to draw attention to police violence against black communities, not to disrespect the military.