Kenny Stills has a target on this back. And every time he takes the field this season, he’ll be performing under an enlarged microscope.
Because when you become one of the loudest voices in the NFL in terms of social justice, you have to consistently prove to critics that your play is as on par as your soundbites.
Stills has been in the news recently, and it has nothing to do with what routes he’ll be running for the Miami Dolphins this season, as he’s taken on the owner of his team, called out Jay Z, and been in the middle of a trivial musical war with his new coach.
“I think my goal is just to inform people as a whole — not just Stephen Ross, but people as a whole that you can’t really have it both ways. You can’t have your cake and eat it too,” Stills recently told Yahoo Sports.
The comments were about the fact that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is the founder of RISE, a nonprofit that educates and empower the sports world to fight against racism while championing social issues, who recently hosted a fundraiser for Donald Trump that raised $12 million.
“At some point, we all have to draw a line in the sand when it comes to associating ourselves and funding campaigns for people that are inciting violence and hate and evil,” Stills explained.
Jay Z was up next.
“Some of the ways he answered his questions, talking about we’re moving past kneeling, like he ever protested. He’s not a NFL player. He’s never been on a knee,” said Stills, who has been kneeling off and on since 2016.
Ever since Jay Z signed his deal with the NFL last week, Stills has been one of the rapper’s biggest critics. The thing with Stills, though, is that he has the resume to back it up. Along with Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid, Colin Kaepernick’s best friend, and Dolphins teammate Albert Wilson, those three are the only ones left taking a knee in the NFL. Stills has also been awarded the Dolphins’ Walter Payton Man of the Year Award twice due to his work in the community.
“Choosing to speak for the people like he had spoken to the people. … I wonder how many common people that he knows or has spoken to,” continued Stills. “I wonder if he’s read my Facebook comments or my Instagram comments or some of the things people say to me. To say we’re moving past something, it didn’t seem very informed.”
Just days after Stills shared his thoughts publicly, Dolphins head coach Brian Flores played eight consecutive Jay Z songs during practice. The Dolphins are claiming that Stills knew that Flores was going to do it, while some are saying it could have just been a coincidence. No matter what, it comes off as petty.
“I think this is honestly, probably a really dangerous period for Kenny Stills and the Dolphins,” said ESPN’s Dolphins reporter Cameron Wolfe.
“There’s got to be a lot of serious man-to-man conversations between Brian Flores and Kenny Stills about where their direction is going forward.”
When this all started back in 2016, Stills released a statement about why he was kneeling. In it, he discussed his love for America, support for the troops and law enforcement, and how while he didn’t want to be a distraction, he wanted to draw attention to the issues that mattered.
“I chose to take a knee on Sunday to join Colin Kaepernick, Megan Rapinoe, and others in bringing awareness to social injustice,” he wrote in September of 2016.
Since then, Kaepernick is still without a job in the NFL, as the settlement of his collusion case against the league all but proved that he’s being blackballed.
Rapinoe has been a target of conservatives and in the crosshairs of Donald Trump for speaking out against him, despite all the success that she’s garnered on the soccer field.
Fellow NFL players like Eric Reid and Michael Bennett also dealt with adversity, as they’ve both been loud voices for change.
And with his recent comments, it feels like Stills’ moment is on the way.
Throughout history, whenever athletes have used their platforms for change, some type of backlash has always ensued. And while the degree of it has varied, no one has gone unscathed.
However, Stills has witnessed what’s happened to Kaepernick, Rapinoe, and others, as athletes are in their sixth decade of tackling social issues.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out, and if Stills has learned from the past about what’s destined to be his future.