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It's Not The Politics. Dolphin Fans Just Hate Losing.

Miami Herald
Kenny Stills has been outspoken about his political and social views.

The Miami Dolphins have had eight winning seasons in the last twenty years. And out of that same time they've been to the playoffs five times. In other words, South Florida fans have had little football to enjoy in a long time. 

This year they have a new coach and a new quarterback. So, does that give fans some hope? Sundial host Luis Hernandez spoke with Adam Beasley, the Dolphins reporter for the Miami Herald. He says don't count on it.

WLRN: One of the storylines for the Dolphins this pre-season is centered on receiver Kenny Stills. He's been outspoken on social issues but he was criticized because of what he said about Stephen Ross, the owner, hosting a fundraiser for Donald Trump. What has management and the owner, Mr. Ross, said about how vocal Stills has been on this?

BEASLY: Well, privately they can't be thrilled. The fact that one of their high speed players, [one of the] best known players, a player who has been a lightning rod for criticism for years, now because of this decision to kneel during the national anthem in protest of systemic oppression, has gone out publicly and taken shots at the owner of the franchise for supporting Trump.

Stills doesn't believe it's going to cost him his job. But it could be a tiebreaker because the Dolphins [could] cut down their roster very soon to 53 players. We hear that Stills might be traded, could be cut, and there are a lot of factors that go into a player being on the roster or not: His ability, if he's living up to the terms of his contract, how big that contract is, how much money he could save going forward. But one factor is, is he a distraction to the franchise. Is he bringing headlines and attention to the team in a way that he otherwise shouldn't? And that is how the kind of whole calculus of picking a 53 man roster goes and Stills has that working against him.

Is he going to change? No he's going to continue to speak out on issues he feels are important. And if his owner is kind of crossing him in that way, he's not going be afraid of saying it. The problem is, he's got to also do his job. He also has to be an NFL player. He has to catch the football; he has to score touchdowns and the second that dips the other things will work against him. It could be a reason to finally say, you know, this is the last straw. He's not living up to his contract. He's not doing what he needs to do. We're just going to move on.

And you said that the team is supporting him. Do you see that in the locker room as well?

Oh sure, I'm sure there are plenty of people in that locker room that don't like the fact that Kenny Stills kneels. There are plenty enough people in that locker room who support the President of the United States and don't like the fact that Stills was criticizing the owner for doing so. The culture however in the NFL was kind of silent, that you don't want to draw attention to yourself. You don't want to be a problem. There are many reasons for that:  the macho culture of the NFL, the fact that they don't have guaranteed contracts. So I am sure there are people in the locker room that don't agree with Stills politically but we're not going to hear much about it, at least while he's still on the team, because these guys by and large don't want to make waves.

How has that impacted the fans, or are the fans in South Florida upset about that or just the fact that their team is not that good?

No, they're upset because it's been two decades basically since they've been a relevant football team; that it's been however long since Dan Marino retired,  since they had a competent quarterback. That's what they're upset about.

Why have the Dolphins gone two decades and more not being able to put together a winner?

Mismanagement. I mean that's, I think, the easiest way to explain it.

It's legislated in the league to have parity; to have teams start out basically with the same amount of resources and have all the same chance to get to the Super Bowl and win it. The Dolphins have squandered those opportunities. You look at their drafts for the last two decades, bust after bust after bust, miss after miss after miss, and that's how you build a team in this league, you draft and develop your own. And they've been one of the worst, at least in the first couple of rounds of the draft of doing that, of having success at the highest level.

And the other factor is this they just can't find a quarterback. They're going to probably find one in 2020 that they think is their guy. They're going to draft one of these players who are in college now and he's going to be their future. But you're there's no guarantee that even if they get one of those guys it's going to work out. That's the whole thing with the NFL. Yes you can build a complete roster, you can have a great coaching staff, but if you don't have a quarterback nothing else really matters. And as I said they have not a quarterback since Dan Marino.

You talk about the fans kind of dwindling, especially if the product on the field gets worse. But Miami, like any team, got super fans right? I mean, we got people who are devoted no matter what?

Sure, the problem is that there are fewer and fewer of them. You look all throughout sports and the younger you are the less of a tie, of a dedication, you have to sports. It's just a changing landscape that we have.

And the Dolphins fans are all older. I wouldn't say all, but for the most part older; a little bit more affluent.

The younger generation, they grew up loving the Heat because the Heat were relevant at the time. The Dolphins have not given anyone under the age of 30 a reason to become a super fan. That needs to change.

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Luis Hernandez is an award-winning journalist and host whose career spans three decades in cities across the U.S. He’s the host of WLRN’s newest daily talk show, Sundial (Mon-Thu), and the news anchor every afternoon during All Things Considered.