Monday, 12 August 2019 17:28

'MATTer of Opinion' Sports Column: Stephen Ross gets a pass that Colin Kaepernick never did

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Here was Colin Kaepernick's political statement in the National Football League, at least when he was still in the National Football League: He began to take a knee during the playing of the National Anthem. He did that and other players did that along with him in solidarity, and eventually the President of the United States called them SOBs because of it. The others didn't lose their jobs, at least not permanently. Kaepernick, who once had a pass in the air to win a Super Bowl for the 49ers, sure did.

So he's the guy from the NFL, a young African-American player, who lost his job because of his political beliefs, which were clearly deemed very bad for business.

This isn't about what you think about his political beliefs. People lined up for Kaepernick and against him. Still do. He was that kind of polarizing figure. Still is. No, this is about what happened to him. And what happened is that he lost his job in America because of what he thought. Not because he wasn't good enough, as Donald Trump suggested on Friday.

Steve Ross, on the other hand? He's the 79-year-old white guy who owns the Miami Dolphins and a lot of other companies as well, including Equinox fitness clubs and SoulCycle. He is a friend to Trump the way Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, is. And now Ross lets us all know about his political (and financial) beliefs by holding a fundraiser for President Trump in the Hamptons on the second weekend in August.

Ross wasn't looking to take a knee here. Just looking to take in a whole lot of money for his friend, the president. In the process, though, he made just as powerful a political statement as Kaepernick's. Just far more self-serving and in his own self-interest.

Has there been blowback against Ross? You bet. Only nobody will have to run a benefit for him because of the blowback. He won't have to sell any of his businesses, including the Dolphins, because people have been cancelling their Equinox and SoulCycle memberships.

Ross looks for cover anywhere he can find it right now, especially behind RISE, the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality, which he founded. But he can't. This is what former ESPN personality Jemele Hill had to say about that on Twitter:

"Ross is hosting a fundraiser for Trump, despite having an organization called RISE.....Sounds like somebody is talking out of both sides of their neck."

Well, at least it's both sides.

Now Ross wants to act like some kind of victim, shocked that people would come after him — maybe even think he's the SOB this time — for his own political beliefs the way people went after Kaepernick. Perhaps his most visible and vocal critic is a member of the Dolphins, wide receiver Kenny Stills, an NFL player who once knelt during the anthem along with Kaepernick, even though Stills didn't pay with his own career.

"Someone has to have enough courage to let him know he can't play both sides of this," Stills said of Ross after the Dolphins' first preseason game on Thursday night. This was after he'd originally called out his owner on Twitter for the fundraiser.

"It's something that I can look back on and say I made the right decision," Stills continued. "Maybe I shouldn't have done it on social media, but I did. If you're going to associate yourself with bad people, then people are going to know about it. I put it out there for everybody to see it."

Ross tries to defend himself, even though his own defense is about as good as his team's. And he does seem genuinely shocked at the public reaction to the fundraiser at his Southampton home, including calls for his businesses to be boycotted. It seem disingenuous at the very least or perhaps somewhat out of touch.

Here is part of the statement he released on Wednesday night:

"I have been, and will continue to be, an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability, and I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle to address these challenges."

You want to ask him to clarify the part about "inclusion," considering the beneficiary of the luncheon he threw, a luncheon where rich guys like Ross got to pay $100,000 for a photo op with the president and $250,000 for participation at a "round-table discussion" during the event. We can only assume the conversation was about making America even greater for all those attending the event, not so much the likes of Kaepernick and Stills.

There is absolutely no law against rich guys like Ross, made richer by his friend the president, exercising their own freedoms to raise money for his re-election campaign. Ultimately, the financial repercussions of the event won't affect a single day of the rest of Ross's life. Are his politics going to hurt him in the short run? Yeah, they are. So will becoming the current face of Trump's support, even in the current political climate. This is the one about reaping what you sow.

Stephen Ross decided to throw a million-dollar lunch for a president who didn't just call dissenters in the NFL SOBs, he called for them to lose their jobs. One prominent football player, a Super Bowl quarterback named Kaerpernick, did. Players lose their jobs because of politics. Owners never do.

Now Ross knows what it's like to get hit. Good.


Matt Harrelson is the co-host of Good Morning Sandhills, Live at 5, the RO Sports Show and ROSS Racing.



Last modified on Monday, 12 August 2019 17:43