Texans, Dolphins deny reports over anthem policy

Members of the Houston Texans, including Kevin Johnson and Lamarr Houston, kneel during the national anthem before the game at CenturyLink Field on October 29, 2017 in Seattle, Washington
Getty/AFP/File JONATHAN FERREY

Los Angeles (AFP) – The Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins on Tuesday rejected reports they have taken a stance against players who protest during the playing of the US national anthem.

In remarks quoted by the New York Daily News on Monday, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross appeared to suggest that kneeling during the anthem would not be tolerated by the franchise.

“All of our players will be standing,” the real estate mogul told the newspaper, saying his initial position supporting the players had changed during the furore between US President Donald Trump and NFL stars which erupted last year.

Trump triggered an outcry after branding players who kneel during “The Star-Spangled Banner” to draw attention to social issues as “sons of bitches”.

However Ross backtracked on his comments on Tuesday, saying that his remarks had been “misconstrued” while acknowledging his belief that kneeling was an ineffective protest.

“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. 

“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,” Ross said.

The Texans meanwhile issued a denial of a report which appeared in the Houston Chronicle which said the team had adopted an unofficial policy of not considering free agents who had taken part in the protests.

The Texans condemned the report as “categorically false and without merit”.

“A recent report that suggests the Houston Texans would not sign a player who has protested in support of social justice issues is categorically false and without merit,” the team said in a statement.

“The Texans ownership, coaching, personnel and executive staff sign and hire employees based on talent, character and fit within our organization.”

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 in protest at the treatment of minorities by law enforcement.

Kaepernick was released by the 49ers in 2017 and remains unsigned, a fact that has led to claims he is being deliberately frozen out of the NFL because of his history of protests.

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