To anyone who thinks that coaches have no problem with players talking publicly about concerns that could have been communicated privately, consider this: Dolphins coach Brian Flores thinks receiver Kenny Stills should have approached owner Stephen Ross privately with concerns about his support for President Trump.
“I talked to Kenny,” Flores told reporters after Thursday night’s game. “The one thing I said to Kenny was — I understand kind of where Kenny is coming from. He wants to be a voice. I talked to him about that a couple weeks ago. I understand him wanting to be a voice for people who don’t have a voice. I respect that. My conversation with Kenny, I asked him why he didn’t talk to the owner, why he didn’t talk to Steve first before putting something out. And I think that’s something that we have to do more of. There’s got to be more communication, more conversation, more communication if we want to really make change. And I wish he would have done that. I told him that. But yeah, I talked to Kenny.”
But there’s a difference between taking concerns about team issues public and taking concerns about social issues public. By organizing a six-figure fundraiser for the President, Ross has engaged in an inherently public act, one that in Stills’ assessment conflicts with the public act of creating a nonprofit that promotes racial equality and social justice in sports. Should Stills have communicated his disagreement on this public issue privately?
For public figures, private conversations regarding political positions with no public component are the same as silence. Besides, Flores isn’t saying Stills shouldn’t have taken his concerns public, only that he should have talked to Ross before commenting publicly. Like Flores did when expressing his disapproval of Stills’ decision to comment publicly before talking to Ross privately.
Meanwhile, Ross hasn’t spoken to Stills in the two days since Stills spoke out. Although Ross didn’t address Stills by name before mounting a P.R. campaign partially in response to Stills’ comments, it would be fair for Flores to say that Ross should have contacted Stills before responding to what Stills had to say.
Flores ultimtely has a very good point: We need more communication and conversation for change to occur. We definitely do not need two sides shouting each other down. We need real engagement, the kind that may get people to modify beliefs on which they refuse to budge, clinging to positions on matters of politics with the same blind loyalty that they devote to their favorite football teams.