Kenny Stills' brief talk with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross revealed plenty about his push for account
TAMPA, Fla. — Kenny Stills had no intention of apologizing.
Stephen Ross remains resolute.
And, in the end, the phone call Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores ultimately wanted both parties to have lasted “less than five minutes.”
“I think this is where I agree with what Ross is saying: You can agree to disagree with people,” Stills told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday, referring to the conversation he had with the team’s owner “a couple days ago.”
“But in our conversation, he thought he could play both sides and I thought that he couldn’t. And that was it. No hard feelings.”
Stills recently drew criticism and praise for calling out his employer on Twitter for hosting a fundraiser at his home in The Hamptons for President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. Tickets for Ross’ Long Island fundraiser reportedly ranged from $100,000 for a photo opportunity and lunch to a $250,000 package, which included a private roundtable discussion with the president. (According to Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, Trump raised $12 million thanks to Ross’ fundraiser and another high-priced Hamptons event.)
With one tweet, Stills highlighted the hypocrisy of Ross’ two agendas: eradicating racial discrimination and improving race relations through his nonprofit the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) while simultaneously funding an agent of racial and ethnic division in America.
Though politics and sports have historically been intertwined, the convergence of these two arenas reached a fever pitch in recent years with NFL players and other athletes kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner” as a form of peaceful protest against systematic racism, police brutality and social injustice. Two years ago, Trump called the kneeling NFL players “sons of bitches” and said if they were unwilling to stand for the national anthem they “shouldn’t be in the country.”
Stills’ condemnation of Ross trying to “play both sides” also forced Flores, whose parents are from Honduras, to address an issue of societal importance, while straddling the company line. And Flores had to do so in the midst of running his first training camp as a head coach. But if anything, last week’s firestorm in Miami was another example of the agency NFL players have, the power and reach of their voices, and their ability to publicly hold team owners accountable for all of the choices they make.
As well-intentioned as some NFL owners might be, they are billionaires and business people at their core, and oftentimes a majority have been guided by self-interests that protect their financial bottom line.
“I think my goal is just to inform people as a whole — not just Stephen Ross, but people as a whole that you can’t really have it both ways,” Stills said, as he walked off the indoor practice field following a joint training-camp session with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
“At some point, we all have to draw a line in the sand when it comes to associating ourselves and funding campaigns for people that are inciting violence and hate and evil,” added Stills, who made it clear he wants to remain with the Dolphins organization. “So it was important to me to let people know that it’s not about politics, it’s not about really choosing sides — Republican, Democrat, whatever — it’s really just about good human beings and bad human beings and the place that we’re in as a country and the bad example that we’re setting for the rest of the world.”
Stills is no stranger to speaking his mind and being an activist in his South Florida community. The receiver’s charitable efforts in disadvantaged neighborhoods and ride-alongs with police officers are well known locally. He also has received deaths threats in the past for kneeling during the national anthem (a peaceful protest he plans to continue this season).