Thursday night’s meaningless Dolphins game was followed by a meaningful exchange between reporters and coach Brian Flores.
For the first time since Flores reacted to receiver Kenny Stills‘ criticism of Jay-Z’s deal with the NFL by playing eight straight Jay-Z songs at practice, Flores faced the media. And he explained that, as some have speculated, the goal was to see how Stills would respond.
“So after the playlist was done, what you guys don’t know is I walked up to Kenny in front of the entire group and said, this is a challenge to you to get open, catch the football and make plays for this team regardless of what’s going on outside of this building,” Flores said. “The next day — because there was a lot more attention paid to this than I ever would have imagined — I got up in front of the team and I told them that I support Kenny. I support Kenny. I support the player protests. I mean, quite honestly, they’re bringing attention to my story.”
Flores then summarized his own story.
“I’m the son of immigrants,” Flores said. “I’m black. I grew up poor. I grew up in New York during the stop-and-frisk era, so I’ve been stopped because I fit a description before. So everything that these guys protest, I’ve lived it. I’ve experienced it. So, yeah, I applaud those guys who protest. So whether it’s [Colin] Kaepernick or Eric Reid or Kenny, I applaud those guys. I told Kenny that in our meeting, in front of the entire team. So that’s where I stand on this thing, and I think it got — it got way more press than it needed to.”
So Flores understandably will make no apologies for how he handled the situation with Stills, who was upset with Jay-Z’s decision to do business with the NFL at a time when the NFL still refuses to do business with Colin Kaepernick.
“I’m trying to challenge one of my players, and I’m going to do that how I see fit,” Flores said. “Look, what these guys protest about is important. I lived it. I experienced it. I don’t know how many people have, but I lived it. So I understand why guys protest, and it’s important. But you know what else is important to me? That guys perform. There’s 89 guys in that locker room who are counting on Kenny to get open, catch the football, and perform for this team, and that’s important to me. If anybody’s got a problem with that, then we’ve just got a problem. We’re going to agree to disagree. I feel like that’s important, and that’s where I stand on this thing. Whatever scrutiny or media or whatever I get, then that’s what I get. I believe, and that’s it. Look, the player protest, I lived it. I mean, I don’t know how many people in here have, but I lived it. So that’s where I’m at on that. It was a challenge to Kenny to perform regardless of whatever’s going on outside. I would say — and I’ve said this to him — he hasn’t performed to that level over the course of this training camp as I’ve seen him. So that was a challenge.”
That last part is intriguing, but Flores wasn’t asked to elaborate. He’s either saying that the challenge resulted in Stills performing at a higher level than he has all camp, or Flores is saying that Still has not performed at a high enough level throughout camp. Which, if that’s the case, is a little ominous only nine days from roster cuts.
Regardless, the comments from Flores were strong and passionate, but it’s surprising that he didn’t think it would spark a media reaction for him to do something that, without the benefit of an explanation in advance, would cause people to think he was sticking it to Stills. Even if the purpose of the playlist was to challenge Stills, it seems unusual to single him out from among 90 for a musical selection that surely lasted well over 30 minutes.