Why you never criticize the guy who signs your paycheck

by Cameron Coyle


You could almost predict this move with more accuracy than the path of Hurricane Dorian.

With NFL teams trimming their rosters to get down to the mandatory 53-man roster by Week 1, the Miami Dolphins shipped out wide receiver Kenny Stills (along with offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil) to the Houston Texans while receiving some hefty draft picks in the process.  

It was Stills who created the biggest South Beach waves during training camp when he called out team owner Stephen Ross for hosting a fundraiser for President Donald Trump back on August 7. 

The Dolphins owner has been one of the league’s biggest voices when it comes to diversity in the league by starting RISE – Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality. He’s the only team owner with a black head coach and a black GM, but none of that was taken into consideration once news spread of his involvement with Trump.

So Ross responded with the following statement:

“I always have been an active participant in the democratic process. While some prefer to sit outside of the process and criticize, I prefer to engage directly and support the things I deeply care about.

“I have known Donald Trump for 40 years, and while we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions.

“I started my business with nothing and a reason for my engagement with our leaders is my deep concern for creating jobs and growing our country’s economy. 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.”

It’s one thing for a company outsider to be that candid regarding an owner’s relationship and business dealings with President Donald Trump, but quite another when that very person is on your payroll.

If Stills was that deeply bothered by Ross’s intentions of hosting a fundraiser, then he should have quietly met with him behind closed doors where the two men could have discussed their differences with civility. Instead, Stills chose to fire off his message on Twitter where it was seemingly more important to announce to the world that he was outraged.

Talk about bad route running. No corporate executive in America would survive public humiliating a top executive without a phone call that same day from Human Resources.

The news likely cost Ross millions of dollars with the above mentioned investments and holdings – not to mention the public relations disaster – and when any employee has that much of a negative effect on the bottom line, it’s time to cut him loose. 

However, the Dolphins couldn’t just release Stills outright at the time without receiving some serious backlash, so the team started chipping away at his character and work ethic.

Head coach Brian Flores even challenged Stills during practice by playing Jay-Z music after the wide receiver publicly attacked the rap mogul’s partnership with the NFL.   

“It was a challenge to Kenny to perform regardless of whatever is going on outside,” Flores said, “So that was the challenge — to get open, catch the football and make plays for this team, regardless of what’s going on outside of this building.” 

But to a much bigger degree, Flores also pointed out that he had experienced much of the issues that Stills had never been exposed to attending the highly affluent La Costa High School in Carlsbad, California. 

Fox Sports Jason Whitlock even recently referred to Stills as “a confused dude in the suburbs trying way too hard to prove his blackness.” 

Regardless, Stills was very active in the Miami community – as writer Brian Miller points out in the Phin Phanatic blog – trying to bridge the gap between the police force and citizens in the community. However, once he publicly embarrassed his boss the damaged between the player and the franchise was irreparable.

A drop-off in productivity that saw Stills finish with just 37 receptions and 553 yards in 2018 coupled with an inflated salary with a four-year, $32-million contract he signed in 2017, the wide receiver was making much bigger headlines for being an activist than an active football player.  

Stills now joins the Houston Texans, a team previously owned by Bob McNair who came out with the line “inmates running the prison” during a league owners meeting regarding the players’ anthem protests.

McNair passed away last season but his widow and his son have taken over  ownership of the organization.

So unless Kenny Stills starts narrowing his focus on football and keeps his fingers from excessively tweeting, the wide receiver could soon be catching passes from Colin Kaepernick.