- Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said his players "will be standing" during the anthem next season.
- Ross admitted that his own stance on the protests was directly influenced by the criticism from President Donald Trump.
- Colin Kaepernick's lawyers added Ross to the deposition list for his collusion case against the league within hours of the comments .
- Kaepernick is expected to argue that Trump's comments coerced the NFL owners into colluding against the quarterback and keeping him out of the league.
Depositions for Colin Kaepernick's collusion case against the NFL and its owners are expected to begin this month and President Donald Trump's comments — and the NFL owners' fear of them — is expected to be at the center of the case.
During this past season, Trump made the protests by NFL players during the national anthem part of his presidential platform. Now, according to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports, Kaepernick is expected to use those comments to show that NFL owners were influenced by the wrath of the president and were coerced into colluding against the quarterback who started the league's wave of protests.
"Kaepernick's grievance is attempting to illustrate a connection between his NFL unemployment and comments Trump has made about the league's handling of both the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback and player protesters," Robinson wrote. "In short, Kaepernick's lawyers are trying to show that Trump impacted the thinking of NFL owners and led them into collusion against the quarterback."
"[Trump's] message became what kneeling was all about."
At the center of the issue are several comments made by the President in which he criticized the NFL and its owners, called for protesting players to be fired, and seemingly took credit for the continued unemployment of Kaepernick. But more importantly, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross admitted to the New York Daily News that Trump's comments directly influenced his own thinking on player protests and changed his team's stance on the issue.
"I think initially I totally supported the players in what they were doing, because it's America - people should be able to really speak about their choices and show them [in] doing that," Ross told the Daily News. "But I think when you change the message, about, is it support of our country or the military, it's a different message. When that message changed, and everybody was interpreting it as that was the reason, then I was against the kneeling."
Ross added that "all of our players will be standing [for the national anthem]" this season, and clarified that his stance changed when Trump specifically made the protests about disrespecting the military and the flag.
"[Trump's] message became what kneeling was all about," Ross told the Daily News. "From that standpoint, that's the way the public is interpreting it. So I think that's really incumbent upon us to adopt that, because that's how I think the country is now interpreting the kneeling issue."
"If Trump's comments can influence the thinking of Ross on anthem kneeling, they could also influence NFL owners to shut Kaepernick out of the league."
According to Robinson, within hours of those comments, Ross was added to the deposition list in the Kaepernick case.
"[The 'will be standing' comment is] a statement Kaepernick's attorneys are expected to attack in a Ross deposition. For the simple reason that if Trump's comments can influence the thinking of Ross on anthem kneeling, they could also influence NFL owners to shut Kaepernick out of the league."
Robinson pointed to several comments made by Trump in the past year that could have influenced the owners and their attitude towards Kaepernick.
The most notable came in March, near the beginning of Kaepernick's free agency. Trump spoke about Kaepernick as the quarterback he was "sure nobody ever heard of" and cited a report that NFL owners might not want to sign him out of fear of getting an angry tweet from Trump.
"Your San Francisco quarterback, I'm sure nobody ever heard of him," Trump said. "It was reported that NFL owners don't want to pick him up because they don't want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump. Do you believe that? I just saw that."
Then, early in the NFL season, Trump said the NFL should fire players who protest during the anthem.
"Get that son of a b---- off the field right now, out," Trump said at a rally in Alabama. "He's fired. He's fired!"
Jones never said his stance was influenced by Trump, but Ross did. Now, more than a year since Kaepernick last wore an NFL uniform, he is still not playing and will likely never play again. His case contends that it is not a coincidence.
Ross later issued a statement saying his comments to the Daily News had been "misconstrued" and that he had no intention of forcing his players to stand. Ross did add that he believes the protests during the anthem are an "ineffective tactic that alienates more people than it enlists."