GLENDALE, Ariz. – The 49ers showed a display of unity prior to playing the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday and urged others to follow their example.
The 49ers players, coaches and staff formed two lines along the team's sideline at University of Phoenix Stadium. Approximately 30 players took a knee during the playing of the national anthem, while the remaining members of the sideline staff stood behind them while saluting the flag.
It was the 49ers’ first game since President Trump, in a Sept. 23 speech in Alabama, advised NFL owners to get rid of any player who kneels during the national anthem.
Safety Eric Reid, who is inactive for the game due to a knee injury, took a knee to protest social inequality, during the playing of the national anthem. Reid took a knee, along with Colin Kaepernick, before every game last season.
Reid said during the offseason he would not continue the silent protest this season. But Reid changed his mind after the events last month in Charlottesville, Virginia. Groups described as Nazis, Ku Klux Klan and white nationalists converged on Charlottesville to protest the removal of a statue honoring Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general in the Civil War who led battle against the United States.
Reid took a knee to protest social injustices for the final two exhibition games and the first four games of the regular season.
The 49ers, in a statement released before the game, asked for all people to put differences aside and work to solve country’s issues.
The players, coaches, ownership and staff of the 49ers released the following statement:
“At its purest level, football is a unifier of people from all walks of life, different socio-economic backgrounds, every corner of this country and around the world. As players, coaches, ownership and staff, we are privileged to work in an environment that is a tremendous example of how people can come together for a common goal. We not only put our differences aside, but we also use them to achieve that common goal by challenging each other to be better -- both in our professional and personal lives.
“For more than a year, members of our team have protested the oppression and social injustices still present in our society. While some may not have taken a knee or raised a fist, we have all shared the desire to influence positive change. Today, our team chose to publicly display our unity in a new way and, in turn, urge others do the same. Our demonstration is simply a representation of how we hope our country can also come together by putting differences aside and solving its problems.
“As the majority of us have done throughout our careers, we use our platform as members of a NFL team, and our right to freedom of expression, to speak up for those whose voice is not heard. It is important that we continue to emphasize that despite our different backgrounds and beliefs, we still love each other and are truly a brotherhood. Our gesture today was an intentional effort to demonstrate that. Make no mistake, we love this great country and have tremendous respect for our military and veterans who have sacrificed so much for our right to express ourselves freely. We passionately want what is best for this country and all its citizens.
“On behalf of the San Francisco 49ers organization, we urge our fellow citizens to embrace your differences, find strength in them, and come together for the good of all.”