Intrigue has been high around Miami Dolphins practice this week with many wondering why head coach Brian Flores chose to play eight straight Jay-Z songs on Tuesday.
Normally the iconic Brooklyn rapper is an artist choice that wouldn’t turn heads at an NFL practice. But after wide receiver Kenny Stills ripped Jay-Z over his controversial social justice partnership with the NFL for saying “we’re past kneeling,” the artist choice seemed a direct shot from the rookie head coach.
And without public explanation, nobody outside of the Dolphins’ inner circle could figure out why.
Flores explains why he played Jay-Z
On Thursday, with a postgame media obligation, Flores couldn’t escape the question. He explained his reasoning behind the music selection.
Brian Flores explains why he played Jay-Z in practice. pic.twitter.com/qcPyxdzvKj
— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) August 23, 2019
“What you don’t know is that I walked up to Kenny in front of the entire group and said, ‘This is a challenge to you to get open, catch the football and make plays for this team regardless of what’s going on,’” Flores said.
The incident also left many wondering where Flores as a young, black NFL coach lands on the subject of NFL players using their platform to raise awareness to social justice issues.
He answered that question in no uncertain terms.
Flores says he supports social justice protests
— WPLG Local 10 Sports (@Local10Sports) August 23, 2019
“The next day ... I got up in front of the team and I told them that I support Kenny,” Flores continued. “I support Kenny. I support the player protests. Quite honestly, they’re bringing attention to my story. So, let’s talk about that.
“I’m the son of immigrants. I’m black. I grew up poor. I grew up in New York during the stop-and-frisk era. I’ve been stopped because I fit a description before. So everything that these guys protests, I’ve lived it. I experienced it. I applaud those guys who protest. Whether it’s [Colin] Kaepernick or Eric Reid or Kenny, I applaud those guys.”
While addressing perhaps the biggest question in NFL circles this week, Flores’ explanation also marked the continuation of what looks like a new phase in the era of social justice protests in the NFL that’s being spearheaded in Miami.
New era of social justice protest in NFL
Stills’ criticism of Jay-Z was not his first foray into the topic. He took on Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross directly, blasting Ross for organizing an election fundraiser for President Donald Trump.
Trump led the charge against players kneeling during the national anthem, urging owners in 2017 to “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired, he’s fired!” in regard to protesting players.
Stills argued that Ross supporting Trump and running a non-profit calling for equality in sports are two things that can’t co-exist.
— Kenny Stills (@KSTiLLS) August 7, 2019
Brave stance from Stills, Flores
In the era of Kaepernick not being able to find an NFL job, it wasn’t long ago that a player directly calling out the owner who signs his checks on a subject like this was unheard of.
But Stills took Ross on directly and didn’t back down from his stance.
And now there’s Flores, who’s openly and unequivocally announcing his support for player protests, calling out Kaepernick by name, using his pulpit as NFL management to lend backing to the movement.
These are things that weren’t happening when Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem. And while they don’t solve problems like police brutality that the movement seeks to address, they’re signs of progress.
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