DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas and linebacker Jelani Jenkins say they received death threats through social media following their national anthem protest, but remain committed to push for better race relations, which is why they helped organize a town hall with police and youth leaders.
“It’s great a lot of people in our community, including our law enforcement, have the mindset of yes, there is something wrong,” Thomas said Wednesday. “Something needs to change, and we’re just looking for solutions and working together to find them.”
Thomas, Jenkins, running back Arian Foster and receiver Kenny Stills knelt together during the anthem at the Dolphins’ opener to protest social inequality. Reaction to the gesture by the four black players was mixed and sometimes ugly.
“Racism is alive and well — ‘You should go back to Africa,’ or the n word,” Thomas said. “That doesn’t matter. I know what I’m standing for is right.”
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began the anthem protest that other NFL players have since joined. He said he also received death threats.
Jenkins said he won’t kneel during Sunday’s game against Cleveland and wants to move the conversation about race relations in a more positive direction, which the town hall helped to do.
“We all want to focus on solutions and actual actions to make actual change,” Jenkins said. “The protests, if you want to call it that, are kind of on the back burner. We want to reach out and get into the community with police officers and youth and do everything we can to create a great environment in our community.”
The town hall took place in the Dolphins’ team meeting room with the support of the organization and RISE (The Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality), a nonprofit organization founded by team owner Stephen Ross to promote understanding, respect and equality.
Several dozen people attended the meeting, including high school coaches and representatives from at least three local law enforcement agencies.
“We had a lot of healthy conversation,” Jenkins said. “We heard different opinions. A lot of people understand we can do things better as a community.”
Thomas and Jenkins noted that the town hall took place as protesters and police clashed in Charlotte, North Carolina, the latest city to erupt in violence over the death of a black man at the hands of police.
“It’s time to find solutions,” Thomas said. “People aren’t crying wolf — this is our reality. People feel their lives are worth less than those who aren’t of color.”
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