MIAMI GARDENS, Fla., Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores says he "applauds" Colin Kaepernick and current NFL players Eric Reid and Kenny Stills for kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and social injustice.
Flores made the comments following the Dolphins' 22-7 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars in a preseason game Thursday at Hard Rock Stadium. Stills and Reid have followed in Kaepernick's footsteps by kneeling during the anthem for several seasons after Kaepernick departed from the NFL.
The Dolphins' first-year head coach addressed the protests after he was asked a question about Stills, one of the Dolphins' team leaders. The NFL recently partnered with rapper Jay-Z's entertainment company Roc Nation to enhance the league's live game experience and amplify the NFL's social justice efforts.
Stills, Reid and Kaepernick criticized Jay-Z for comments after he made the deal with the NFL, with Stills saying it "didn't sit right" with him. The next day, Flores decided to play eight consecutive Jay-Z songs during practice, as a challenge to Stills. Flores said Thursday he played the songs to challenge Stills to get open and make plays regardless of distractions going on outside the team's facility.
Flores addressed Stills in front of the team the next day and voiced his support for the veteran wide receiver.
"I support Kenny. I support the player protests. I mean, quite honestly, they're bringing attention to my story," Flores said. "So let's talk about that. I'm the son of immigrants. 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 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. I'm trying to challenge one of my players, and I'm going to do that how I see fit.
Flores said he personally chooses to stand instead of kneel during the anthem because he feels like "it's important to stand."
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross hired Flores in February, after he helped the New England Patriots win the Super Bowl as the team's linebackers coach. Dolphins general manager Chris Grier and Flores make up the league's only black general manager and coach tandem.
Stills criticized Ross earlier this month for hosting a fundraiser for President Donald Trump. Ross removed himself from his post on the NFL's social justice committee following the criticism. Ross was a founding member of the committee. The Dolphins owner also founded the Ross Initiative in Sports For Equality, a national nonprofit with a mission to educate and empower the sports community to eliminate racial discrimination, champion social justice and improve race relations.
"Look, what these guys protest about is important," Flores said. "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."