Gilbert on kneeling for anthem: 'It's a poor example'

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, repeatedly said it was wrong for professional athletes to take a knee, or express any form of protest, during the singing of the national anthem. But, Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins, said the emerging trend has sparked a much-needed dialogue about racism.

Asked what he'd do if a Cavaliers player decided to kneel during the national anthem, Gilbert said, “I hope we don’t ever have to come with that.”

The two owners were speaking on a panel at the University of Michigan sports business conference Friday afternoon when they engaged in a civil but robust exchange about the growing trend of professional athletes taking knee, or expressing some form of protest, during the singing of the national anthem. Gilbert said it was “bad choice.”

“There’s a million ways you can express yourself and you should do that, for sure. Taking a knee in the United States of America while millions of people are watching, I think it’s a poor example,” Gilbert said.

What would Gilbert do if a Cavalier decided to take such action?

“I hope we don’t ever have to come with that,” Gilbert said.

At that point, Ross asked Gilbert: “Well, what are they going to do? They want to express themselves.”

Four Dolphins players have taken a knee during the anthem this season. Ross applauds the move.

“This is not about patriotism,” Ross said. “This is about expressing their feelings about what’s going on in this country. To allow people to express themselves is what this country is all about.

“We are talking about something today that is probably the most — the biggest issue in America today is racism. And they are dealing with it. It creates a conversation that needs to be had in this county.”

Ross’s comment garnered applause.

Gilbert countered he thought it was the wrong format for protest and expressed concern for the attacks the athletes face by those who opposed their actions.

Ross said protests by the Dolphins players resulted in community meetings with athletes and the public.

Both Gilbert and Ross agreed that professional sports athletes can be catalysts for social change.

laguilar@detroitnews.com

Twitter @LouisAguilar_DN