If You Thought Football Was Done with Activism, the NFL and Miami Dolphins Will Remind You Otherwise


Dolphins owner Stephen Ross

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross

The owner of the Miami Dolphins, Stephen Ross, has made it a particular cause of his to work intently on social justice programs. His own organization, the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) addresses a number of issues in the community. 

Along with that, Ross began a franchise effort with team players to start a fund for various social programs, with the added work of highlighting various groups and organizations at Dolphin home games.

Despite these efforts, and a significant amount of donations behind them, Ross has been forced out of an NFL social justice committee he had been a part of. Initially the official statement had been that Ross had decided to step down from the committee — of which he was a founding member. But in a new interview, former player and committee member Chris Long revealed that Ross was actually forced out of the group. Have a look at this.

Kenny Stills

Kenny Stills“We just removed, or got Stephen Ross to agree to be off a working group,” Long said. The reason for this stems from what has become a ridiculous controversy — Ross held a fundraiser for President Trump’s reelection. This raised the ire of player Kenny Stills, the most outspoken of the players on the roster, and one who has continued the practice of kneeling during the national anthem. Read this.

This is a perfect representation of the myopic vision these football activists have held during the recent upheavals; they should be respected and even honored for their political positions, but anyone else is not granted the same level of respect if they have a differing view. If they oppose the president, by example, they deserve to be patted on the back for speaking their mind. Support the president, however, and your political opinion needs to be punished. It is infantile thinking, and yet these same minds are demanding to be respected.

Ross did not sit back and take his “deserved” punishment. In response to the ouster, he released this statement:

“I always have been an active participant in the democratic process. While some prefer to sit outside of the process and criticize, I prefer to engage directly and support the things I deeply care about. I have known Donald Trump for 40 years, and while we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions.

“I started my business with nothing and a reason for my engagement with our leaders is my deep concern for creating jobs and growing our country’s economy.

“I have been, and will continue to be, an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability, and I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle who address these challenges.”

It used to be that we could turn to the mindlessness of a Sunday schedule of football to provide a respite from the political and social upheaval. It has been years since we’ve had such luxury, with such an insistence from many players to inject socio-political commentary into the proceedings, and it only appears to continue.

Initially, NFL commissioner Roger Gooddell was permissive of the activity. So much so that a few seasons back he was on broadcasts giving voice to his support to players expressing their opinions, but at the same time stating he would fine any players who wore cleats commemorating the 9/11 tragedy, when games fell on the anniversary. But then things changed. Specifically, for the first time in decades the league experienced a drop in attendance at games and ratings on television. Suddenly, players kneeling became an issue to be addressed.

So the league, and the Miami Dolphins in particular, are still struggling with the environment they have created. An owner who is doing far more than giving lip service to social causes is pushed out of a social-cause group he helped create, all because of his political affiliation. The people who think this was the wise move demand that we take their views seriously. 

But this is the same crowd that has for years said anyone who disagrees with the practice of kneeling during the anthem is being intolerant, or worse. They should be praised for the way they express themselves, we are lectured, but those who express disagreement are scorned. And they still do not see the contradiction in their message, nor the lack of communication they display.

I had been a Dolphins fan for decades. When players in Miami years ago began kneeling, I began to walk away. It was not out of protest — they killed any passion I had for the team. And they fail to see the bile in their messaging is not helping their cause. When I voiced opposition to the disrespect shown during the anthem, I was called a “racist” by some. If they think that’s a way to get a mind to change, they are only continuing their practice of ill-thought-out messaging. 

Chasing away an owner who has been a driving force for the social activism they claim to support only proves I haven’t been missing anything of substance in the NFL these recent years. The National Hockey League season opener is Oct. 2, between the St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals.

Brad Slager, a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer, wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.