Miami Dolphins Owner Forces Players to Stand During National Anthem; 3 Refuse and Remain in Tunnel

The owner of NFL's Miami Dolphins, Stephen Ross, reportedly ordered his players to stand while the national anthem played before a game. Ross used to support the players who take these few minutes as a sign of protest but his stand changed after President Donald Trump called them out for being disrespectful.

Reuters/Paul Childs
Miami Dolphins players kneel during the U.S. national anthem before the match.

On Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans, Ross insisted that the players stand as the band played "The Star-Spangled Banner," but Miami Dolphins' tight end Julius Thomas, wide receiver Kenny Stills and safety Michael Thomas chose to remain in the tunnel. They went out only after the anthem ended.

Across the NFL, the players either take a knee, locked arms, held hands or stayed in the tunnel during the national anthem to protest inequality and other social ills that besiege the U.S. today. It's a practice that started last year among a select few but the protests grew and grew until Trump brought it up on Twitter.

"Trump has made [standing for anthem] about patriotism," Ross said. "It's so important if that's what the country is looking at to look at [the protest] differently."

Ross realized that the players' action greatly influences public perception, which is why he now believes standing up and saluting the flag should be obligatory, in his team at least. He saw that it's not supposed to be used as an issue on race or equality when a few weeks back, the Miami Dolphins owner locked arms with his players to raise awareness.

"I know our players who kneeled for the anthem and these are smart young men of character who want to make our world a better place for everyone," Ross remarked at that time. "They wanted to start a conversation and are making a difference in our community, including working with law enforcement to bring people together.

This is not to say, however, that Ross no longer supports players who advocate for such social issues. Ross is actually an active influencer in furthering the causes that center on diversity and racial equality. He formed Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) in Miami, which continually dialogues with leaders in the community about issues involving the city's different cultures and minority groups.