The Miami Dolphins have yet to fully begin training camp, but no start of camp would be complete without some form of controversy in Miami.
Taking a quick hike around the AFC East-the Dolphins were the only team with a seemingly quiet offseason after a bevy of moves to get under the cap, one big trade (Robert Quinn), and a very large release of the big Ndamukong Suh-who will make his Hollywood premiere quite soon. The Bills, Jets, and Patriots all made headlines and most headlines were negative.
However, this afternoon, AP followed by ESPN sent shockwaves on Twitter about the Miami Dolphins plan to “fine and or suspend players” who choose to kneel for the anthem during the 2018 NFL season.
The flurry of responses for and against the fresh off the press policy was widespread amongst Dolphins fans and non-Dolphins fans.
The angry sentiment for boycotting the NFL in 2017 rose to a fever pitch and the divisiveness and or a lack of understanding of this issue has resurfaced after a two month break since commissioner Roger Goodell left the interpretation of the policy-stand or stay in the tunnel, to the owners.
We’ve seen a range of bigotry of some NFL owners as well as the outlandish commentary and unprofessional behavior of an owner who’s no longer an owner of the team.
It’s clear that the list of priorities are mixed up in the NFL landscape as far as penalties and suspensions-dog fighting gets 4 games, spousal abuse gets 2, and so on and so forth and destruction of a cell phone after ball deflation gets 4 games.
But I digress…
Here’s the main issue I have with the Dolphins’ carefully crafted policy as set forth by the team that closely mirrors the NFL policy in May; it could take away the livelihood (by suspensions or fines) of so many players who not only have chosen to stand for injustice and also stand up and help better the communities in their NFL city.
That is, whether there have been players that have knelt, or not, the policy with the Dolphins (which has yet to take shape as of yet) penalizes all players by dividing the locker room.
Take Kenny Stills for example, who chose to kneel and has done so since the 2016 season. In fact many players around the NFL did and only one-Colin Kaepernick is not on an NFL team to this day.
Surely, Kenny Stills started his Dolphins career on a low note dropping a potential game breaking touchdown pass in week one at Seattle- later atoning for that dropped pass with a number of exciting game breaking plays throughout the season.
However, Kenny Stills though has done more than compete on the football field by demonstrating his call to justice-he has met with community leaders in Miami Gardens and worked with the Miami Gardens Police Department to better understand their cause. In addition, he also met with Kaepernick himself in the offseason. Stills, who spent part of his offseason road tripping in a cool ’76 Volkswagen Bus, took a journey through the South and learned the why the cause is important to so many and demonstrated how he can help. He met with men, women, and children affected by injustice in their communities. He gave of his time and energy when he could have been training intensely for the upcoming 2018 season.
Said Stills about his eventual road trip journey:
“I want to find some grass-roots organizations that need the help or might need the recognition, and reach out to them and come and lend a helping hand in any way that I can,” Stills said. “The whole idea kind of would be to film the trip, let people track the trip and then possibly collect donations while we go on the trip. Then, at the end of it, being able to put all of that money back into the organizations that we stopped and visited with and worked with throughout the journey (as told to Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald-January 18, 2018).”
Likewise, Ryan Tannehill and the rest of his teammates have shown compassion where an outpouring of love is needed to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas community and their football program after a lone gunman killed 17 children, faculty, and staff at the school on February 14, 2018.
The invitations of the school’s football program to Dolphins’ Davie Headquarters and their staff have been endless and have been a model of love and compassion between an NFL team and a high school team.
For every program that players get involved in throughout the offseason and season-the Miami Dolphins Community Affairs SVP Mr. Jason Jenkins plays an integral role in not only having players serve the community, but support and allow for the relationships to grow organically-much like Stills and the neighboring Miami Gardens community has.
Mr. Jenkins and his staff don’t just focus on their NFL city, but their NFL community-from Broward to South Dade county as the Dolphins invite pop Warner teams to training camp and their coaches with an added bonus-player access and autographs!
Not to mention-Dolphins players have posted some of their community work this offseason such as Davon Godchaux who shares his love with his high school alma mater bringing new shoes and equipment to the Plaquemine high school football team:
For all that the Miami Dolphins stand for in Miami and all over the world, make no mistake, today’s unveiling of such policy restarts a painful and perhaps detrimental (to angry season ticket holders) conversation that opens the door for interpretation and thusly opens up a proverbial can of worms that some fans in general would rather focus on the NFL games and not about social justice causes.
Most fans would rather not get involved in the red state versus the blue state-but most fans are ardent supporters of one cause versus another.
For all of the perceived negative press, there is a lot of good out there.
Heading into this 2018 training camp in Miami-fans shouldn’t forget the good the Dolphins do in the community.
Surely, Stephen Ross will take the blame for this policy, even if this had come from Head coach Adam Gase who detailed a similar policy to the NFL’s before there was such a policy put forth to the owners in May.
Gase’s policy during the season, if you remember, was that players could stay in the locker room or stand for the flag-but later caved due to players complaints about pregame preparations being disrupted somewhat and that being in the locker room served as more of a distraction.
Perhaps some players need that calm before the storm to get amped to play a game of football and that being on the field standing for the flag as F-18s flyover is good for the game and the fans.
While some Dolphins players who knelt, only Stills remains from the 2016 team (who took a knee) and he is strong in his conviction and unsure if he will kneel this season.
Could other team leaders like Ryan Tannehill kneel to show the Dolphins leadership the team is stronger together or rather join in support of their teammates who represent the communities they are from? Would Tannehill send a message to say, management that the policy has gone too far to take money away from the players?
One wonders though, could this issue of anthem protest-which creates division between fans and players-could have it divided the Dolphins locker room in 2017?
Was that the reason the Dolphins only won 6 games?
That, again, like the Dolphins’ policy is subject to interpretation.
Photo credit (Miami Herald)