Kenny Stills’ brief talk with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross revealed plenty about his push for accountability – AOL

Kenny Stills’ brief talk with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross revealed plenty about his push for accountability – AOL

TAMPA, Fla. — Kenny Stills had no intention of apologizing.

Stephen Ross remains resolute.

And, in the end, the phone call Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores ultimately wanted both parties to have lasted “less than five minutes.”

“I think this is where I agree with what Ross is saying: You can agree to disagree with people,” Stills told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday, referring to the conversation he had with the team’s owner “a couple days ago.”

“But in our conversation, he thought he could play both sides and I thought that he couldn’t. And that was it. No hard feelings.”

Stills recently drew criticism and praise for calling out his employer on Twitter for hosting a fundraiser at his home in The Hamptons for President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. Tickets for Ross’ Long Island fundraiser reportedly ranged from $100,000 for a photo opportunity and lunch to a $250,000 package, which included a private roundtable discussion with the president. (According to Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, Trump raised $12 million thanks to Ross’ fundraiser and another high-priced Hamptons event.)

17 PHOTOS

Kenny Stills throughout his NFL career

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New Orleans Saints wide receiver Kenny Stills pulls in a touchdown reception in the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Kenny Stills (84) pulls in a touchdown reception over Buffalo Bills defensive back Nickell Robey during the second half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) celebrates his touchdown reception with Ben Grubbs andKenny Stills in the first half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in New Orleans, Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

This is a 2014 photo of Kenny Stills of the New Orleans Saints NFL football team. This image reflects the New Orleans Saints active roster as of Tuesday, June 10, 2014 when this image was taken. (AP Photo)

Miami Dolphins’ Julius Thomas (89), Michael Thomas (31) and Kenny Stills take a knee as the U.S. national anthem is played before an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints at Wembley Stadium in London, Sunday Oct. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills, left, speaks with Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson (15) after the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, in Jacksonville, Fla. The Jacksonville Jaguars won 23-20. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills catches the ball as he warms up during an NFL football training camp practice, Monday, Aug. 10, 2015 in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR JCPENNEY – Hometown hero Kenny Stills of the Miami Dolphins shares a smile with kids from the Boys & Girls Club Miami-Dade, during a special #GivingTuesday event at the Dadeland Mall JCPenney on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 in Miami, Fla. (Joel Auerbach/AP Images for JCPenney)

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills speaks on stage during an NFL fan rally on Regent Street, in London, Saturday Sept. 30, 2017. The New Orleans Saints will play the Miami Dolphins in an NFL football game at London’s Wembley stadium on Sunday. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills celebrates after scoring against the San Diego Chargers during the first half of an NFL football game in San Diego, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

FILE – In this Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016, file photo, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills (10), free safety Michael Thomas (31) and defensive back Chris Culliver (29) kneel during the National Anthem before the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Miami Gardens, Fla. Miami Dolphins players who protest on the field during the national anthem this season could be suspended for up to four games under a new team policy issued to players this week. The policy obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday, July 19, 2018 classifies anthem protests as conduct detrimental to the club, punishable by suspension without pay, a fine or both. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills (10) catches a pass in front of Baltimore Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr in the second half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

MIAMI GARDENS, FL – DECEMBER 03: Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills (10) scores during an NFL football game between the Denver Broncos and the Miami Dolphins on December 3, 2017 at Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida. Miami defeated Denver 35-9. (Photo by Richard C. Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills (10) makes a circus catch in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Jim Rassol/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

MIAMI, FL – DECEMBER 23: Kenny Stills #10 of the Miami Dolphins gets introduced before the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Hard Rock Stadium on December 23, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

BUFFALO, NY – DECEMBER 30: Kenny Stills #10 of the Miami Dolphins dives with the ball for extra yardage in the second quarter during NFL game action against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on December 30, 2018 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

MIAMI, FL – AUGUST 08: Kenny Stills #10 of the Miami Dolphins rests on the sidelines in the third quarter during a preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons at Hard Rock Stadium on August 8, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

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With one tweet, Stills highlighted the hypocrisy of Ross’ two agendas: eradicating racial discrimination and improving race relations through his nonprofit the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) while simultaneously funding an agent of racial and ethnic division in America.

Though politics and sports have historically been intertwined, the convergence of these two arenas reached a fever pitch in recent years with NFL players and other athletes kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner” as a form of peaceful protest against systematic racism, police brutality and social injustice. Two years ago, Trump called the kneeling NFL players “sons of bitches” and said if they were unwilling to stand for the national anthem they “shouldn’t be in the country.”

Stills’ condemnation of Ross trying to “play both sides” also forced Flores, whose parents are from Honduras, to address an issue of societal importance, while straddling the company line. And Flores had to do so in the midst of running his first training camp as a head coach. But if anything, last week’s firestorm in Miami was another example of the agency NFL players have, the power and reach of their voices, and their ability to publicly hold team owners accountable for all of the choices they make.

As well-intentioned as some NFL owners might be, they are billionaires and business people at their core, and oftentimes a majority have been guided by self-interests that protect their financial bottom line.

“I think my goal is just to inform people as a whole — not just Stephen Ross, but people as a whole that you can’t really have it both ways,” Stills said, as he walked off the indoor practice field following a joint training-camp session with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

“At some point, we all have to draw a line in the sand when it comes to associating ourselves and funding campaigns for people that are inciting violence and hate and evil,” added Stills, who made it clear he wants to remain with the Dolphins organization. “So it was important to me to let people know that it’s not about politics, it’s not about really choosing sides — Republican, Democrat, whatever — it’s really just about good human beings and bad human beings and the place that we’re in as a country and the bad example that we’re setting for the rest of the world.”

Stills is no stranger to speaking his mind and being an activist in his South Florida community. The receiver’s charitable efforts in disadvantaged neighborhoods and ride-alongs with police officers are well known locally. He also has received deaths threats in the past for kneeling during the national anthem (a peaceful protest he plans to continue this season).

His mission is to be a unifying force for the betterment of society. And that often means calling on others to be accountable for their actions.

Even an employer.

Last Wednesday, Stills tweeted a screenshot from RISE’s website with the caption: “You can’t have a non profit with this mission statement then open your doors to Trump.”

There was a purpose behind his tweet, Stills said. But the question of whether it bridged the philosophical gap between his and Ross is another matter.

Stills said he sent the owner a text message “a couple days ago” and Ross called him. After a few minutes, the two hung up — with neither side changing his position.

Stills and Ross remain rooted in their fundamental beliefs, while Floresfound himself caught between a rock and a hard place in his first year on the job of rebuilding a downtrodden Dolphins franchise.

5 PHOTOS

Miami Dolphins players kneel during national anthem

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Sep 9, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills (left) and Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson (right) both kneel during the national anthem prior to a game against the Tennessee Titans at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

MIAMI, FL – SEPTEMBER 09: Receivers Kenny Stills #10 and Albert Wilson #15 of the Miami Dolphins sit on the bench during the playing of the national anthem prior to playing against the Tennessee Titans at Hard Rock Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

MIAMI, FL – SEPTEMBER 09: Robert Quinn #94 of the Miami Dolphins raises his fist during the National Anthem against the Tennessee Titans at Hard Rock Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

MIAMI, FL – SEPTEMBER 09: Albert Wilson #15 and Kenny Stills #10 of the Miami Dolphins sit during the National Anthem against the Tennessee Titans at Hard Rock Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

MIAMI, FL – SEPTEMBER 09: Albert Wilson #15 and Kenny Stills #10 of the Miami Dolphins sit during the National Anthem against the Tennessee Titans at Hard Rock Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

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The controversy also highlighted the optics of a minority head coach caught in the middle of a player and owner on opposite ends of a polarizing issue. Flores — one of only four head coach of color among 32 teams — said last week that he understood and respected Stills’ mission and desire to use his platform to effect change, but he also felt the receiver should have spoken to Ross privately “before putting something out there.” The coach added: “That’s something we have to do more of, more communication, more conversation, if we want to make change. I wish he would have done that. I told him that.”

Asked about Flores’ comments, Stills replied: “What I’ll say about Coach Flores is that, I think from a professional matter, he’s correct. It’s like, hey, the best way to handle that would have been to reach out and talk to him personally. But he also didn’t understand, being that Coach Flores just got here, the relationship and all of the other conversations that Ross and I have had.”

Following the Dolphins’ preseason win over Atlanta, Stills disclosed that a “gut feel” led him to step away from his involvement with the RISE foundation. On Tuesday, he reiterated there’s no “beef” between he and Ross.

The receiver also made it clear that his decision to reach out to Ross wasn’t about clearing the air or apologizing.

“I think it’s just the right thing to do,” Stills said, before boarding the team bus. “To have a conversation and just let each other know. ‘Cause I think some people might take it the wrong way, like, I don’t want to play for the Dolphins anymore. And I do.”

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