Senate

Rubio praises Dolphins player who takes knee for his community service

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Wednesday offered praise for Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills, who has garnered attention for taking a knee during the national anthem at games to protest social injustice.

"No @NFL player does more community service than @KStills of the @MiamiDolphins," Rubio tweeted Wednesday, sharing a tweet from Stills while lauding the player's charitable work.

"You don't have to agree with how or why he has chosen to exercise the 1st Amendment before every game to acknowledge the hours he gives voluntarily,on his day off,to serve his fellow Americans."

The Florida Republican shared a tweet from Stills that showed the player visiting wounded veterans with other members of the Dolphins organization. 

Stills was one of just a handful of NFL players who protested during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" over the weekend, which marked the first regular season games of the 2018 season.

Teammate Albert Wilson also took a knee during the Dolphins' opening game Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, while fellow Dolphin Robert Quinn raised his fist.

Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat out the anthem during the team's game Monday night.

Each of those players were among the dozens who took a knee, raised a fist or remained in the locker room during the playing of the anthem last season, sparking criticism and debate over the protests.

Rubio has previously defended Colin Kaepernick, who was the first NFL player to take a knee during the anthem to protest police brutality and other social issues. The GOP senator told TMZ Sports in May that Kaepernick, who has remained unsigned since the end of the 2016 season, deserves to be on a team.

"Look, I support his right to stand for what he does. I don't agree with what he did but I support his right to do it," Rubio said.

Nike launched an ad campaign earlier this month featuring Kaepernick with the message, "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything." The ad aired frequently during NFL games over the weekend.

President Trump has seized on the anthem protests to rail against the NFL and players who have demonstrated at games. He has called on players who protest during the anthem to be fired and has suggested they don't belong in the country.

NFL owners initially caved to pressure from Trump and his supporters earlier this year when they approved a policy that would fine players who kneel during the anthem. However, the league later put that policy on hold, and no such penalties were implemented for the start of the season.

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