Kenny Stills Says Social Media Backlash After Anthem Protests Led to Depression

Kenny Stills
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills recently admitted the social media backlash he received for kneeling during the anthem the last three years, led to depression.

“I thought that I was a strong-enough individual at the time to read all the Twitter comments, read all the Instagram comments, read all the stuff on Facebook and think that I could just laugh it off and that everything was going to be OK,” Stills said during a recent mental health forum for 238 kids in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood.

He just wasn’t feeling himself.

“I was tired of feeling the way that I did, and I wanted to figure out a way to help myself,” Stills said via the Palm Beach Post. “There were important people around me that I was negatively affecting. And I love them and they love me too much for me to want to bring them down. I didn’t want to be energy-sucking.”

Stills had to overcome his football machismo and force himself to seek help.

“Honestly, as a Taurus and just like a stubborn individual, it was very difficult to take that step to go out and get therapy, to trust somebody and to talk to them and tell my story,” Stills said.

Stills says he got attacked relentlessly on social media, and even received death threats, for kneeling during the anthem.

“That really catapulted me into reaching out to get therapy and then being diagnosed with mild depression,” Stills says.

But Stills isn’t backing down and plans on continuing his protests in 2019.

“Everything is the same for me,” Stills said at Dolphins training camp. “I’m trying to think of ways to build on the things I’ve done.”

Stills is troubled that “unarmed black people are being killed by police.”

“I removed my filter when it comes to politics, religion, social issues,” Stills told ESPN in January. “I’m not worried about whether people are comfortable or uncomfortable. Unarmed black people are being killed by police. It’s unfair that we’ve got people sitting around being comfortable. I’m uncomfortable with that. People want to stay in their own bubble. They don’t realize how much of a privilege that is.”

Aside from kneeling during the anthem to protest social injustice, Stills is very active helping underprivileged people in the South Florida community, winning the Dolphins’ Nat Moore Community Service Award the past three years. He was also the Dolphins’ nominee for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award the past two. Each of the NFL’s 32 teams nominates one player for this award each year.

Stills was asked several questions by a reporter at training camp about the vitriolic political discourse in the country, but he took the high road.

“[I] just continue to educate myself and listen and learn and try to use my social media to help other people learn,” Stills said. “It’s really just about being informed. We are all going to have an opinion. We all aren’t going to agree with each other, but be civilized, and agree to disagree, is maybe the best way to go.”

He feels people would be better off not watching television.

“Turn off the TV and [stop] focusing on the negative news and focus on the good things and try to do things for people on a daily basis, and kind of spread that love” Stills said.


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