On Wednesday, the Miami Dolphins announced their team award winners for the 2017 season.
Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was named the Dan Marino Most Valuable Player, defensive end Cameron Wake earned the Don Shula Leadership Award, center Mike Pouncey was named the team’s Ed Block Courage Award winner and wide receiver Kenny Stills earned the Nat Moore Community Service Award.
This is the second year in a row Stills won this award. This is also is the second year in a row that he’s knelt during the national anthem.
This is the second honor Stills has received from the Dolphins in the last month. On December 7, he was named as the team’s nominee for The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. Each team nominates one player whose had “a significant impact on his community.” The winner is announced at the Super Bowl in early February.
Why are the Dolphins heaping honors on a man who some believe is disrespecting the flag?
Because of his myriad charity work in South Florida.
“Stills is just the second offensive player in team history to win the Nat Moore Community Service Award in back-to-back seasons, joining Lousaka Polite (2009-10),” the Dolphins wrote in a press release. “He is the team’s most active player in the South Florida community, making appearances and lending a hand nearly every single week. The team’s nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, Stills has become a pioneer among NFL players in addressing societal issues.
“His advocacy for social justice and equal rights has led to a partnership with RISE (Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality). Along with RISE, Stills has helped organize police ride alongs and CommUNITY tailgates, bringing local student-athletes, coaches, parents, community leaders, law enforcement and military personnel together at every Dolphins home game. Stills has used his platform to help inspire other NFL players to host similar programs in their local communities. Five other teams joined the effort and hosted their own ride alongs this season, encouraging dialogue and displaying the teamwork that unites communities and their NFL teams directly to youth in the area.”
So the Dolphins feel “Stills has become a pioneer among NFL players in addressing societal issues,” but others don’t hold anthem-kneelers, like Stills, in such high regard. President Donald J. Trump has railed against them on more than one occasion.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’” Trump said during a speech in Huntsville, Alabama on September 23.
So why is Stills kneeling?
“In no way was my action intended to be a sign of disrespect to anyone,” Stills said on September 14, 2016. “I love my country. And I have the utmost respect for the servicemen and women who have – for hundreds of years – sacrificed on our behalf. It is because of them that we have the freedom to help give a voice to the voiceless.
“But it is time for us to come together in solidarity. To acknowledge as a national community, that we have to treat each other with more love and respect. That the overwhelming number of innocent people being killed right in front of our eyes is wholly unacceptable. And to demand justice for the victims of these often senseless acts, together.”
The anthem-kneeling might be turning off some NFL fans. NFL attendance and TV ratings are down this year, and the anthem-kneeling is one of the reasons.
So it’s possible the Dolphins risk turning off some of their fans by giving Stills awards.
But this clearly doesn’t seem to concern them.