Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills, an anthem-kneeler for the last two seasons, was named as one of the 32 nominees for the 2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.
Each NFL team nominates one player whose had a significant positive impact on his community.
Stills does extensive charity work in the South Florida area.
“Knowing the man [Payton] was off the field, it is an honor to be mentioned as the same breath as him,” Stills said. “When I first came into the league in New Orleans, it was mandatory for all the rookies to go to every community service event. That’s where it started, and that’s where I found my love and passion for it. I realized too that’s a good way for you to get to know the people in the city and to get to know the city. And to put a face to a name because a lot of people only see us with our helmet on. And so that’s how I fell in love with it.”
The winner will be announced in Minneapolis at NFL Honors, an awards show set to air nationally on Feb. 3, the night before Super Bowl LII.
Stills was hailed on the Dolphins’ website for being, “a pioneer among NFL players in addressing societal issues.”
“[Stills] worked with the Miami Dolphins and Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) to host a town hall meeting that brought influential local leaders together with law enforcement to discuss actionable steps that could be taken to address issues of racial inequality and unite the community,” wrote the Dolphins’ website after Stills nomination was announced.
Stills is trying to improve the relationship between “citizens and law enforcement” according to the Dolphins’ website.
Dolphins coach Adam Gase is impressed with the charitable work Stills does on his days off from practice.
“On any Tuesday, if you try to get a hold of him, you’re going to have to wait until five or six o’clock because he’s doing community stuff all day,” Gase said. “I’ve been impressed with how he’s made himself available, how much he tries to do.”
Each nominee for the Walter Payton Award receives a $50,000 check for the charity of their choice. Stills donated the money to an organization called, “Empowered Youth.”
According to their website, Empowered Youth “provides on-going support and opportunities to inner-city young men who have been or are at-risk of being in the Juvenile Justice System by empowering them to create lasting transformation and a positive life for themselves, their families and their communities.”
Some NFL fans have been turned off by the anthem protests, and this might be hurting the NFL’s TV ratings and ticket sales.
Will Stills’ charity work, and Payton nomination, assuage the Dolphins’ fans upset at him for kneeling, and perhaps staying away from Dolphins games?
The Dolphins certainly hope so.