A day after he was quoted as saying all his players would stand for the national anthem in 2018, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said that he has "no intention" of making his players stand and that his "comments have been misconstrued."
"I have no intention of forcing our players to stand during the anthem, and I regret that my comments have been misconstrued,'' Ross said in a statement to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "I've shared my opinion with all our players: I'm passionate about the cause of social justice and I feel that kneeling is an ineffective tactic that alienates more people than it enlists.
"I know our players care about the military and law enforcement too because I've seen the same players who are fighting for social justice engaging positively with law enforcement and the military. I care passionately that the message of social justice resonates far and wide, and I will continue to support and fund efforts for those who fight for equality for all."
Several times last season, a handful of Miami Dolphins players knelt during the national anthem. At one point, coach Adam Gase made a rule that players either had to stand on the sideline or wait in the tunnel during the song but later told players they wouldn't be punished for kneeling.
A report on Monday suggested this year will be different.
"All of our players will be standing," Ross told the New York Daily News at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, where he was being honored with the Jackie Robinson Foundation's ROBIE Lifetime Achievement Award.
According to the Daily News, Ross did not indicate what would happen if a player decided to take a knee.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started a movement in 2016 when he refused to stand during the national anthem as a protest against social injustice. At the time, Ross told the Daily News, he didn't have a problem with players expressing themselves in such a manner.
"Initially, I totally supported the players in what they were doing," Ross said Monday. "It's America and people should be able to really speak about their choices."
But the narrative changed last season, he continued, after President Trump began speaking out against the protests, at one point urging owners to fire players who didn't stand for the anthem. Trump's words led more players to protest, particularly during the early part of the season.
"When that message changed, and everybody was interpreting it as that was the reason, then I was against kneeling," Ross, whose ties with Trump go back to their days as team owners in the USFL in the 1980s, told the Daily News.
"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."
9:05 a.m.: This article was updated after Stephen Ross said he would not force players to stand during the national anthem.