Flores was responding to criticism he received on social media after several Jay-Z songs in a row reportedly played during a team practice this week ― a day after Stills questioned the hip-hop star’s new long-term partnership with the NFL via his Roc Nation company. Flores chooses the music playlist for practices, a Dolphins spokesperson told the South Florida Sun Sentinel on Tuesday.
Many on Twitter wondered whether Flores was intending to send a message to Stills.
Flores told reporters on Thursday that the Jay-Z playlist was meant to be a “challenge” for Stills, who has continued his peaceful social injustice protests in the spirit of Colin Kaepernick by kneeling during the national anthem at games.
“After the playlist was done, what you guys don’t know is, I walked up to Kenny, in front of the entire group and said, ‘This is a challenge to you, to get open, catch the football and make plays for this team, regardless of what’s going on outside of this building.’”
Flores added that the playlist got more attention from the media than he “ever would’ve imagined.” He said he told the entire team the next day that he supports Stills.
“I support Kenny, I support the player protests. ... Quite honestly, they’re bringing attention to my story, so let’s talk about that,” said Flores, who is currently one of only three Black head coaches in the league. “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.”
He continued: “So everything that these guys protest, I’ve lived it, I’ve experienced it. I applaud those guys who protest. Whether it’s Kaepernick or Eric Reid or Kenny, I applaud those guys.”
Supporters of Kaepernick have questioned why Jay-Z, who himself has been a vocal supporter of the activist, would partner with the league, which has been widely accused of blackballing the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback.
Kaepernick famously kneeled during the national anthem at NFL games in 2016 to protest social injustice. He has remained unsigned by a team since he became a free agent after that 2016 season.
Jay-Z drew further criticism after he said during a press conference with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last week that “we’ve moved past kneeling” and that it’s time to focus on “actionable items.”
The music mogul stated in a press release that Roc Nation aims to “strengthen the fabric of communities” through its partnership and via the league’s Inspire Change initiative.
When asked about Jay-Z’s comments during a Monday interview, Stills said he believed the Brooklyn native “discredited” the protests and work done by him, Kaepernick and other NFL players. (Watch Stills’ entire interview here.)
The wide receiver didn’t appear to be bothered by the Jay-Z playlist when reporters asked him about it on Thursday.
“It was just music, was my reaction,” he said, according to a video from the Sun Sentinel.
“For the most part I think it was just him [Flores] trying to see if I could handle ... if someone was going to heckle me or play Jay-Z music in other stadiums, if I was going to be mentally strong enough to withstand that type of treatment I guess,” Stills later added.
Stills further said that he has endured all sorts of backlash over the years for his protests, such as boos and racial slurs. He said hearing Jay-Z’s music wasn’t going to ruffle his feathers.
The receiver, whose own Kenny Stills Foundation works to empower underserved communities, has been outspoken on social injustice issues on numerous occasions.
Earlier this month, he called out Dolphins owner Stephen Ross ― who has a nonprofit that aims to eliminate racial discrimination ― for hosting a fundraiser for President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.
“You can’t have a non profit with this mission statement then open your doors to Trump,” Stills wrote on Twitter.