Nearly a week after head coach Brian Flores released a statement through the Miami Dolphins condemning silence, on Thursday, he met with the media to elaborate on his call to action, and speak on how he is handling the prominent national police brutality crisis as a coach.
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Directing the Focus
On Monday, at the launch of the Dolphins Foundation’s Food Relief program, Coach Flores neglected to speak on the subject of the riots and protests surrounding police brutality further. But on Thursday afternoon, he made clear that George Floyd’s murder was the topic he was interested in discussing.
“There’s a lot going on. There’s a lot of anger, a lot of emotion,” Flores said. “I just want to make sure the spotlight is on George Floyd, and the murder that occurred. And that we focus on George Floyd and his family, and justice for the family.”
Flores did not shy away from elaborating on his statement, or his views on the tragic events that have occurred over the last several weeks. He did, however, decline to comment on how these events might manifest into football. When asked about his potential advocacy for players to use their platforms and potentially kneel during the anthem, he shifted the conversation back to Floyd.
“I think to me, the focus needs to stay on justice for George Floyd and his family,” he said, “And really making the necessary changes so that that doesn’t happen again. That’s all I want to talk about, to be quite honest.”
Flores rejected the opportunity to share the content of personal conversations that he’s had about these events with his family and children, and when asked about his own early experiences with race relations as a black man of Honduran descent, he maintained his stance.
“I’ve always known since I was a little boy. I’ve known that race was a factor. I could go into personal stories, but this isn’t really about me. It’s about what’s happening in this country, and again, I think we’ve got a situation here where we can actually make some change. It’s not often that we’re in 100% agreement that changes need to occur. So rather than talk about me and my personal situation, let’s put the focus on that, and make some progress.”
On the Team’s Participation in Protests
Over the weekend, videos surfaced of multiple players, including new Dolphins safety Kavon Frazier, participating in peaceful protests across the nation, which Flores said he fully supports.
“My number one thing for guys is that they have a right to protest, and I support their right to protest,” Flores said. “But even more than that, it’s about being careful. I want my players to be careful.”
Former Indiana football player Chris Beaty, a friend of Flores, is on his mind. Beaty was shot and killed while protesting in Indianapolis last week. The death hit home personally, he said, as he expressed his condolences to Beaty’s loved ones. Flores also acknowledged the fear that the tragedy has ignited as he goes about conversing with his team.
“I guess that was the first thing that came to mind when Kavon was protesting,” he said. “And I’ve had a lot of conversations with players over the last few days. And I support these guys. I understand the emotions that they’re going through, but at the same time, I want them to be smart.”
On the Upcoming Season
After a memo was released Thursday morning that loosens work restrictions in the league and allows coaches to enter their facilities, Flores had little to offer by way of what the future of practices looks like for the Dolphins.
“We’ll meet on that as a staff later today,” he said, adding that the coaches will have meetings with the players, presumably over internet video chats, on Friday. He said that he feels good about what his players, particularly the rookies, have been accomplishing outside of the Dolphins’ facilities while their social distancing regulations remain in effect, but that it’s difficult to not have them there to work with in person.
“The rookies in general, I think they’ve all done a good job,” Flores said. “They’re all in meetings, they’re all learning, they’re all doing everything they can possibly do to pick up the information, to train. But quite honestly it’s hard not to have your hands on them.”
And as for rookie hot-shot Tua Tagovailoa and his injury rehab? Well, the quarterback still seems to be a bundle of question marks. And Flores doesn’t intend on speculating until he can start working with him in person.
“He’s working hard, he’s picking up the information. But you want to get your hands on him, quite honestly,” he said. “I think they’re all doing a good job, I think they all have a long way to go. But specific to the injury, I haven’t seen him. Our doctors haven’t seen him.”
The Road Ahead
Coach Flores’s strategy for managing poignant conversations about race are a direct reflection of his coaching style, and he said he believes that little by little, if the right steps are taken, George Floyd’s murder will parlay the world into a new era of kindness. It all starts with meaningful conversation.
“I’m a baby steps guy,” he said. “There’s a lot of dialogue that has to happen, first and foremost, and it’s a long road. I think it’s about each individual’s heart—where is that? Making sure people’s hearts are in the right places, and there’s an overall respect for your fellow man or woman. I think there’s a long way to go. And I hope that we use this tragedy as a starting point.”
He said that he’s taken multiple calls from his players and staff already, and intends to keep the conversation open. He doesn’t speculate on kneeling for the anthem, or the proper use of his player’s platforms to advocate for justice. But he wants to continue to support his players with open dialogue, and be there as someone who will listen.
“We each have a different story. Some are different than others,” he said. “But if we listen and try to understand, and step into someone else’s shoes—white, black, regardless of religion, football player, non-football player—we’re all a little bit different. I think there’s got to be more kindness, more acceptance. And those are some of the things I try to spotlight in our conversations, is that when you are having these conversations, try to listen more than you speak.”