When Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills won a community-service award from an LGBTQ-rights organization earlier this year, he couldn’t have been more proud.
Stills has made community service and fighting for equality definitive parts of his NFL career. He has consistently taken a knee during the playing of the National Anthem “to protest racism, inequality and social injustice.” He has worked countless hours with local organizations in South Florida building bridges across communities and helping lift up those who may feel disempowered.
He has been named by the Dolphins the team’s Nat Moore Community Service Award recipient each of the last two seasons. He was the club’s 2017 nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which acknowledges philanthropy and community impact.
Yet the first award he won from the community was given to him by SAVE, an LGBTQ-rights-advocacy group in South Florida. During his acceptance speech he said he felt “deeply connected” to the work SAVE does on behalf of the community, posting a short clip of his speech and an endorsement for LGBTQ equality after the award ceremony.
.@SAVELGBT is working tirelessly in the LGBT community to bring people together on the road to equality...grateful to spend time with them last week and honored to accept this award. pic.twitter.com/Tfw8OEtyS2— Kenny Stills (@KSTiLLS) September 18, 2018
That deep connection, Stills told Outsports, is the connection he feels to the fight of every minority to gain equality and acceptance.
“All discrimination is something I don’t agree with,” he said. “It’s something I’m against.”
Stills said he does have family members who identify as LGBTQ. Yet his commitment to bringing equality for the community stems from his broader intersectional approach to fighting discrimination and building access to resources for everyone.
“We’ve got to all stand up together, regardless of color or sexual orientation or gender identity,” he said. “It’s all of us coming together against discrimination, against corruption, against evil.”
The Dolphins community outreach as a team has reflected that. Recently members of the front-office staff, as well as some players (not including Stills), embarked on a cultural tour of Miami that included the popular drag bar The Palace — complete with a drag show — and the Ocean Drive Rainbow Crosswalk.
Stills was drafted from the University of Oklahoma by the New Orleans Saints in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He was traded by the Saints to the Dolphins in 2015. He needs just 46 receiving yards this weekend against the New England Patriots to pass 4,000 yards for his career.
Despite the work of Stills and other players, in addition to the team’s LGBTQ community outreach, Stills noted that no Dolphins player, or any other player in the NFL, is currently publicly out (and he doesn’t know anyone on the Dolphins who is gay privately). And as Stills said, with 63 players in the Dolphins locker room for practices, chances are at least somebody is gay.
“They don’t feel comfortable enough to come out,” he said. “The proof is in the pudding. We don’t have any guys coming out. Obviously they don’t feel comfortable coming out or they don’t feel they need to.”
One powerful element in the NFL, and across America, is Christianity, which has traditionally taught that homosexuality is a sin. Stills said despite that, Christians can still find a place in their hearts to fight for equality and inclusion for gay people.
“None of us are god on this earth,” he said. “We’re here to love our neighbors and those types of things. We should let people live freely and be who they are.”
If a player did come out in the Dolphins locker room, Stills is prepared to stand by that player’s side and make sure he knows he’s welcome.
“It’s just having a conversation with them. Standing up for that person if they are being harassed. It’s really just everything I’ve been doing, as far as standing up, using my voice. It’s the same thing, letting that person know they are welcome, they are loved.”
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