Kenny Stills isn’t the only Stephen Ross employee to publicly question with Ross this week.
Like the receiver who plays for the football team Ross owns, the CEO of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality disagrees with the decision of the nonprofit’s founder to host a fundraiser for President Donald Trump.
“This is a decision I personally wish Steve had not made,” Diahann Billings-Burford told Jason Reid of ESPN.com. She admitted that she has had “difficult conversations” regarding the impact of that decision on the credibility of RISE with black athletes.
“I totally understand, empathize — I don’t know what word is more powerful — [with] the disappointment and criticism toward Steve for making this decision,” Billings-Burford told Reid. “I would have to lack perspective to not understand why this decision would not make athletes hesitate to work with RISE.”
Billings-Burford understands that, in the end, RISE may have less support from professional athletes.
“Could we go forward with less athlete engagement, professional athlete engagement?” Billings-Burford told Reid. “Yes, we certainly could. But we do think there’s real value in having committed, professional athletes engaged with us fully. Absolutely. In some ways, we’re built on that.”
Ross pushed back against criticism initially via an anonymous quote (given to four different publications) from an unnamed source close to Ross. He later issued a statement in his own words. On Friday, President Donald Trump told reporters that the controversy will serve only to make Ross “much hotter.”
The heat Ross has felt to date, beyond critical comments from a pair of people who work for him, includes protests directed at SoulCycle and Equinox, two of the companies he owns.