Houston Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills received high praise from the city's police chief Art Acevedo on Tuesday after the two met to discuss policing within the community.
Stills, one player who still kneels during the national anthem before games, was traded to the Texans prior to the start of the season. He expressed a willingness to get involved in the community and even broached the idea of the Houston Police Department recognizing officers who establish a positive relationship with the community with an Officer of the Month award program.
“He reached out to us and he wanted to meet about community policing, community relations and, more importantly, how he can partner with the police department to try to build trust with young people,” Acevedo told the Houston Chronicle. “Really thoughtful young man and really, really enjoyed meeting with him. For him to reach out, it shows that this is important to him. The issue of policing and community relations is something that's important to him. I think it speaks to his character. I think it speaks to his maturity.”
While Stills gets criticized for kneeling during the anthem to protest perceived racial injustices in black communities, Acevedo said he views the receiver’s actions as patriotic.
“This is why I believe in transparency, and we actually take the time to listen to each other outside of sound bites, outside of people trying to influence us because of their own biases,” Acevedo told the newspaper. “We end up finding out we have a lot more in common. That we’re really right there, side by side. I think for those that would critique this young man because he protests by kneeling, protests bad policing by kneeling during the national anthem that he does that out of a sense of patriotism, out of a sense of love for the community, out of a sense that he wants better outcomes for everyone.”
Acevedo added: “Quite frankly that doesn’t define him. What defines him is the totality of his works, the totality of his character. I can tell you, having spent the last 30, 40 minutes with him, we didn’t get just a good athlete. We got a great human being, and I hope that the future will keep him in Houston for a long time to come.”
Stills, who was traded to the Texans from the Miami Dolphins last month, told ESPN he received death threats after he criticized Dolphins owner Stephen Ross for hosting a fundraiser for President Trump while serving as a member of the NFL Players' Coalition. He also spoke out about Jay-Z partnering with the NFL and leaving Colin Kaepernick out of the conversation.
These events ultimately led to Stills' trade to the Texans.