Dol­phins pleased with visit by Good­ell

Play­ers hope­ful of joint ini­tia­tive to help bring about so­ci­etal changes.

The Palm Beach Post - - SPORTS - By Ja­son Lieser Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

DAVIE — Roger Good­ell did not come to South Florida to in­sist that Dol­phins play­ers stand for the na­tional an­them.

In join­ing Kenny Stills, Julius Thomas and Michael Thomas for an event with the North Mi­ami Po­lice De­part­ment on Tues­day, he had good di­a­logue with three play­ers who have been kneel­ing in their protest against racial in­equal­ity in this coun­try.

Stills said Good­ell made no de­mands about the an­them. They chat­ted for “a cou­ple of min­utes here and there” through­out the day, which in­cluded a ride-along, and it meant some­thing to Stills to see Good­ell take a gen­uine in­ter­est in the play­ers’ com­mu­nity out­reach.

“Hon­estly, he was proud of us for putting on what we were putting on and happy that he could spend some time with us,” Stills said Thurs­day. “I didn’t ex­pect him to be there. It was nice of him to take some time out of his day to make it and see what we were do­ing.”

The sense from Thomas and Thomas was that Good­ell is in­ter­ested in help­ing lead a joint ini­tia­tive with play­ers, own­ers and the league to work to­ward the so­ci­etal changes for which the play­ers have been push­ing.

Michael Thomas de­clined to give specifics on what that pro­gram would en­tail, but it is likely to be dis­cussed at next week’s league meet­ing. Play­ers have

been in­vited to at­tend.

“With the so­lu­tion that’s go­ing to come out very soon, as the play­ers have been work­ing with the (union), the league, the own­ers, I think every­body’s go­ing to see it wasn’t just a blind stance,” Michael Thomas said. “We were work­ing to­ward a so­lu­tion this whole time.

“I think it’s go­ing to be a pos­i­tive step in the right di­rec­tion. It’s not the end-all so­lu­tion, but it’s go­ing to be a pos­i­tive step in the right di­rec­tion that we were able to ac­tu­ally do some­thing.”

Good­ell’s visit comes at a time when the league is highly con­scious of play­ers demon­strat­ing dur­ing the an­them and grow­ing con­cerns that it will af­fect its busi­ness. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has height­ened that ten­sion by tak­ing aim at play­ers who protest, go­ing as far as to call any­one who kneels dur­ing the an­them “a son of a bitch” who should be fired.

Trump’s pres­sure ap­pears to have made at least a lit­tle head­way with the Dol­phins’ or­ga­ni­za­tion. Dat­ing back to last sea­son, Mi­ami has been one of the most prom­i­nent teams when it comes to protest­ing, and owner Stephen Ross has re­peat­edly sup­ported the play­ers. Last week­end, though, he said it was “in­cum­bent upon the play­ers ... to stand and salute the flag,” at least in part be­cause Trump is try­ing to make it an is­sue of pa­tri­o­tism.

In­ter­est­ingly, it was re­vealed hours later that coach Adam Gase had in­sti­tuted a new pol­icy stat­ing play­ers must stand or stay in the locker room. Stills, Thomas and Thomas did not take the field for the an­them be­fore Sun­day’s game against the Ti­tans. Stills in­di­cated he will do that again Sun­day at At­lanta.

Gase has de­clined twice to give an ex­pla­na­tion for the rule, say­ing only that it was his de­ci­sion and play­ers are on board with it. Be­fore last week­end, he had barely said any­thing on the topic other than back­ing the play­ers’ free­dom of ex­pres­sion.

“There’s noth­ing that says they can’t do that,” he said in Septem­ber 2016 when asked if he’d dis­cour­age his play­ers from demon­strat­ing. “Our guys in our locker room, if they have cer­tain stances they stand be­hind, then it’s not my right to say you can’t do that.”

The play­ers oc­ca­sion­ally seem as though they’d like to move past the na­tional an­them is­sue, with Stills do­ing so at the be­gin­ning of this sea­son. He felt the kneel­ing had made its point — and it has, given the NFL’s in­creased in­ter­est in part­ner­ing with them in their cause — and sought to find more di­rect ways to im­pact the com­mu­nity. He did not kneel be­fore the sea­son opener, but changed his mind af­ter Trump’s com­ments the fol­low­ing week­end.

It’s pos­si­ble the kneel­ing move­ment has served its in­tended pur­pose now, af­ter a year-plus of draw­ing at­ten­tion to in­jus­tices. And if the end re­sult is a truly im­pact­ful league-wide pro­gram, that ap­pears to be a vic­tory for the play­ers who protested.

“The whole point of kneel­ing has never been about dis­re­spect­ing any­one,” Julius Thomas said. “It’s never been about slight­ing the ef­forts that our sol­diers and law en­force­ment of­fi­cers and pub­lic safety in­di­vid­u­als have done. We have tremen­dous re­spect for them.

“The pur­pose was to hope that through the protest, it could be ad­dressed. It could be some­thing where peo­ple sit back and go, ‘It wasn’t some­thing I was pay­ing at­ten­tion to be­fore or that I thought a lot about, but there’s some things that should change. There’s some in­equal­i­ties that should be ad­dressed.’ That was the en­tire point of the protest, and it’s en­cour­ag­ing to see peo­ple start to un­der­stand.”

Com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell joined three Dol­phins play­ers for an event Tues­day.

SUN­DAY’S GAME Dol­phins at Fal­cons, 1 p.m., CBS

COUR­TESY OF MI­AMI DOL­PHINS

NFL Com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell (mid­dle) joined Dol­phins play­ers for their event with the North Mi­ami Po­lice De­part­ment on Tues­day.

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