Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills wasn’t all that thrilled by the news that Jay-Z had partnered with the NFL to help produce the Super Bowl halftime show and other league-related musical events, especially after the rapper/mogul said “I think we’ve moved past kneeling. I think it’s time for action.”
Like Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, Stills takes a knee during the national anthem before every game to raise awareness of police brutality, social injustice and systemic oppression. He said Monday that Jay-Z’s comments on the player protests “didn’t seem very informed” and that he’s “never been on a knee.”
The next day, Dolphins Coach Brian Flores picked out more than half a dozen songs by Jay-Z and played them at the start of practice. It wasn’t a coincidence, Flores said Thursday night.
“It was a challenge to Kenny to perform regardless of whatever is going on outside,” Flores told reporters after the Dolphins beat the Jaguars in a preseason game. “I would say, and I said this to him, he hasn’t performed up to that level over the course of training camp, or as I’ve seen. So that was the challenge — to get open, catch the football and make plays for this team, regardless of what’s going on outside of this building.”
But Flores said his challenge to Stills doesn’t mean he doesn’t support the message the wide receiver and other NFL players are trying to send.
“Quite honestly, they’re bringing attention to my story,” said Flores, who grew up in Brooklyn and whose parents are from Honduras. “I’m a son of immigrants. I’m black. I grew up poor. I grew up in New York during the stop-and-frisk era. So I’ve been stopped because I fit a description before. So everything that these guys protest, I’ve lived it, I’ve experienced it. So I applaud those guys’ protest. So whether it’s Kaepernick, or Eric Reid or Kenny, I applaud those guys. I told Kenny that in our meeting in front of the entire team.
“I don’t know how many people have, but I lived it. So I understand why guys protest. And it’s important. And you know what else is important to me? There’s 89 guys in that locker room who are counting on Kenny to get open, catch the football and perform for this team. That’s important to me. And if anybody’s got a problem with that, then we’ve just got a problem. We’re going to agree to disagree. I feel like that’s important and that’s where I stand on this thing.”
Stills seemed to understand Flores’s point, or at least publicly accepted it.
“We talked about it in-house and he handled it in-house,” he said Thursday night. “For the most part, I think it was him seeing if I could handle if people were going to heckle me or play Jay-Z in another stadium if I could be mentally strong enough to handle that sort of treatment. I’ve been dealing with this since 2016 — music, boos, racial slurs. So I don’t think a little Jay-Z music is going to ruffle my feathers that bad.”
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