Stephen Ross initially supported his players’ right to peacefully protest, but has recently shifted his stance. Ross told the NY Daily News that all of his players will stand for the National Anthem in 2018.
“All of our players will be standing,” Ross said. “Initially I totally supported the players in what they were doing. It’s America and people should be able to really speak about their choices.”
Ross began to feel as though the players’ desire to bring awareness to racial inequality and police brutality was mischaracterized in wake of Donald Trump’s tweets.
“If a player wants privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem,” Trump tweeted in September. “If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”
“When that message changed, and everybody was interpreting it as that was the reason, then I was against kneeling,” Ross said. “I like Donald [Trump]. I don’t support everything that he says. Overall I think he was trying to make a point, and his message became what kneeling was all about. From that standpoint, that is the way the public is interpreting it. So I think that’s really incumbent upon us to adopt that. That’s how, I think, the country now is interpreting the kneeling issue.”
Ross’ comments come off the heels of being recognized by the Jackie Robinson Foundation with its ROBIE Lifetime Achievement Award.
Among the three players kneeling during the national anthem throughout the 2017 season were Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas and Julius Thomas. Stills is the only player whose contract extends beyond 2017. Michael and Julius Thomas are set to become free agents.
Ross is often lauded for being one of the more progressive owners in professional sports. He’s contributed more than $7 million in funding the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (Rise), a non-profit organization whose primary objective is to “bring people together to promote understanding, respect and equality.”