That caught the attention of Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills, a vocal critic of the Trump administration who has protested during the national anthem to raise awareness of police brutality and social justice issues in recent seasons. On Wednesday, Stills tweeted a photo of the mission statement for the nonprofit Ross Initiative for Sports Equality, questioning how the franchise owner could be committed to eliminating racial discrimination and championing social justice reforms, as the group’s statement proclaims, and to supporting Trump.
“You can’t have a non profit with this mission statement then open your doors to Trump,” Stills wrote.
A person close to Ross told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that though Ross supports Trump’s reelection campaign, he disagrees with the president’s views on race.
“They agree on some things and disagree on others, specifically on the rhetoric around race,” the person told the Sun-Sentinel. “With regards to race, Stephen’s record on fighting racism speaks for itself. It is possible to support someone on the basis of some things and not agree with everything about them.”
Some of Ross’s business holdings felt a backlash Wednesday from opponents of the president. SoulCycle and Equinox, fitness brands whose parent company is chaired by Ross, released statements distancing themselves from the reelection campaign.
Other NFL owners have opened their pocketbooks for Trump. NFL owners and the league itself donated more than $7 million to Trump’s inaugural committee, according to Federal Election Commission findings. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, late Houston Texas owner Robert McNair and New York Jets owner Woody Johnson (who left the team to serve as ambassador to the United Kingdom) donated $1 million either themselves or through their organizations.
Players have clashed with owners before over social and political issues, including the demonstrations during the national anthem. Attempting to quash the issue, NFL owners in 2018 passed a proposal to allow players to remain in the locker room during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but teams could levy fines against players who did not stand for the anthem while on the field.
Ross and the Dolphins told league officials the team would classify any sort of demonstration as “conduct detrimental to the club,” a designation that would enable the team to impose significant penalties.
But the rule drew widespread resistance from players, and the NFL agreed to indefinitely suspend the policy in an agreement with the players’ union, which agreed to drop its grievance against the league in return.
Stills, an ally of former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, has protested racial injustice and economic inequality by kneeling during the national anthem the past three seasons. He told the Palm Beach Post this week he plans to continue his demonstration this season.
He also has advocated for federal and state firearm restrictions in the wake of mass shootings around the country, including a 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., just 30 miles from the Dolphins’ home stadium.
An Ohio official this week included athletes who kneel during the anthem as among those to blame for mass shootings last weekend in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio. Candice Keller, a GOP state representative, also blamed gay people, video games, “drag queen advocates,” Democrats, marijuana and “the culture” for the events that left at least 31 dead and injured dozens more.
The leader of the Ohio Republican Party has called on Keller to resign after her Facebook post
But Stills told the Palm Beach Post this week that he would welcome a conversation with Keller.
“Just hear what she has to say and then, in the kindest way possible, with the most love and the most empathy that I have, try and explain to her why I do what I do,” he said. “And show her pictures and just get her to understand, ‘Hey, everything that I do is about bringing people together and trying to make this country a better place and leave it better than I found it.’
“That’s what I wake up to do every day, and none of the things that she said in that [Facebook post] is making us any better. Just try to encourage her to think about the stuff that she puts out there and understand that hate and fear aren’t going to get us anywhere."
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