Kenny Stills knows his NFL career is over but has no regrets


CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Kenny Stills is technically an NFL free agent and could play in the league again, but he knows he’s a “former” wide receiver and is perfectly content with that, telling ESPN he’s enjoying the fruits of his nine-year career.

Stills, speaking to ESPN at the NFL Experience event in Cape Town, South Africa, this past weekend, added that he would continue to focus on his social activism interests, and hoped that the league would become more open to players using their voices without backlash.

Stills, 31, was asked whether he had hopes of an NFL return. “No,” he said. “I’ve completely given up on trying to play and shifted my focus on to the next chapter of my career.

“From here, it’s a matter of figuring out direction and then applying the same skills that I used to get me to the top of this game to whatever that next skill is.

“Right now, I’m just enjoying traveling and getting more exposure to the world and some of the things that I didn’t have the opportunity to get exposure to while playing.”

Stills, who spent nine seasons in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills and Houston Texans, feels comfortable that his calls for a more inclusive sport and society helped effect change.

He publicly called out Dolphins owner Stephen Ross in 2019 when his plans to host a fundraiser for Donald Trump were revealed. At the time, the wide receiver was still on the books of the Dolphins, though he was traded to the Texans three weeks later.

He has long been a vocal supporter of the LGBTQIA+ community, for which he was honored by South Florida nonprofit organization SAVE.

Additionally, he was arrested in 2020 outside Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s home while part of a protest calling for Cameron to arrest Breonna Taylor’s killers.

Although Stills is proud of the stances he has taken throughout his career, he acknowledged that more work needs to be done within the NFL before player-activists such as himself can truly feel welcome.

“I definitely think that we’ve made progress in our ability to use our voice, but people for the most part aren’t going to like changes and [there is] resistance,” said Stills, who kneeled during the national anthem beginning in 2016 in support Colin Kaepernick’s protests against police brutality and racial injustice. “So it’s always tough to really continue to move on through the fight. Everyone has their perspective and ways and thoughts about how things should be done.”

Regardless of any effects his activism had on his career, Stills knows where his priorities lie. “No regrets,” he said. “The decisions that I’ve made have helped me become the man that I am, the human that I am, and I came into the league with the goal of taking care of my family and making sure that our family was changed for generations to come.

“I was able to do that, and [while] I didn’t win a Super Bowl and didn’t get all the accolades I was going for, I checked off the main priority of why I was coming into the league, and I’m super grateful for that coming to fruition and that opportunity that the NFL gave me.”

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