Exclusive: Reid explains strategic reason for kneeling during national anthem

Exclusive: Reid explains strategic reason for kneeling during national anthem

SANTA CLARA – It’s not a protest of the national anthem.

It’s not a protest of the flag.

It’s not a protest of the U.S. military.

It is not a protest of anything other than social inequality, 49ers safety Eric Reid reiterated on Wednesday.

So why did Colin Kaepernick and Reid, as 49ers teammates last season, begin kneeling during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner more than a year ago?

“Our goal is to make people uncomfortable about the issues,” Reid told NBC Sports Bay Area on Wednesday after a press conference with reporters at Levi’s Stadium that lasted more than 20 minutes.

“But the anthem is just a vehicle to get us to have those conversations. It’s the platform we have. It’s the only time we have to get the eyeballs on us to do that. If we just did locker-room talks afterward, nobody would even know. Strategically, this is the only way we thought we could do it.”

Coach Kyle Shanahan, general manager John Lynch and 12 leaders of the 49ers met on Monday to discuss making a unified statement or gesture before Sunday’s game in Arizona against the Cardinals.

“I anticipate us doing something together,” Shanahan said. “I think that’s really what it’s about.”

The issue became magnified over the weekend – after the 49ers’ game on Thursday night – when President Trump on Friday said NFL teams should not allow players to sit or kneel during the playing of the national anthem.

Trump said NFL owners should respond by saying, "Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. He's fired!"

Trump -- like a segment of America – is choosing to interpret the peaceful protests of racial inequality as a protest against the flag.

Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea was with the 49ers last season and often held up a fist in protest during the national anthem. He attended Howard, a historically black university located in Washington.

“It seems that some people just don’t want to really understand and accept the fact that there is social injustice in this world, and also police brutality, and that’s what Kap did this for,” Bethea said Wednesday in a conference call with Bay Area reporters.

Meanwhile, Kaepernick remains unsigned and mostly silent while continuing to deliver on his pledge to donate $1 million to organizations that help further has cause of supporting underserved communities.

Reid said he has been in constant contact with Kaepernick, especially over the weekend when Trump’s comments seemed to galvanize players around the league.

“He said it was a direct response to what the president said,” Reid said in his press conference of his conversation with Kaepernick. “He wishes that this many people were involved last year. I don’t think the narrative would’ve went in as many directions as it went. If we had more solidarity we could’ve focused on these issues.

“But we have to be pragmatic about it. We have this opportunity now, and it’s important we discuss the issues and make changes.”

Kilgore: All of 49ers on same page 'for the first time in a long time'


Kilgore: All of 49ers on same page 'for the first time in a long time'

The 49ers’ coaching staff made its feelings known to center Daniel Kilgore throughout the season.

But, in the past, that would not have necessarily meant everyone in the organization had the same thoughts about Kilgore, who was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.

“The whole season, coaches and I had a good relationship,” Kilgore said Wednesday on conference call with Bay Area reporters. “Just talking and having one-on-ones with various coaches, I had a positive outlook for the future.

“But that’s just one thing. The coaches have an opinion of you, but then there’s also the front office. That’s two totally different things. And I think for the first time in a long time, our coaches and the front office are on the same page.”

Kilgore was working out back home in Tennessee on Wednesday when he signed a three-year contract to avoid hitting the free-agent market. Kilgore, 30, a seven-year NFL veteran, described the contract as a team-friendly deal.

The 49ers presented Kilgore with a contract offer during the season but negotiations did not get serious until just recently. While the 49ers expressed interest in retaining Kilgore, he said he did not know what the future held for him when he packed his belongings from the locker room on the day after the season ended.

“It kind of makes you nervous because in this profession, people like the younger guys,” Kilgore said. “You just never know what will happen at any time, any given day, in the NFL. So toward the end, that last day of clearing out the locker, I didn’t know if I’d be back. I didn’t know if the Niners would want me back.”

Kilgore was named the winner of the organization’s top honor for an offensive lineman. Kilgore won the Bobb McKittrick Award for best exemplifying the dedication, excellence and commitment of the long-time 49ers offensive line coach. Kilgore started all 29 games in which he appeared the past two seasons, including a career-high 16 games last season.

"I've been here seven years and I consider the Bay Area my second home,” Kilgore said. “To be able to extend my career wearing the 49ers jersey was special to me. This team is heading in the right direction, I wanted to be a part of it."

Why the 49ers did not hesitate to pay Garoppolo big money

Matt Maiocco

Why the 49ers did not hesitate to pay Garoppolo big money

When Jimmy Garoppolo signed a contract that could pay him up to $137.5 million over the next five years, he was asked what convinced him during his nine weeks with the organization that he wanted to be with the 49ers for the long term.

“I think it was a number of things,” Garoppolo said last week. “The team, the acceptance that they had of me when I first got here from the get-go, the coaching staff, Kyle and Rich. It was a very welcoming environment, and I really liked that. We had some success down the stretch, and you could see that pieces were falling into place. We've got a long way to go, but I think we're moving in the right direction.”

Kyle, of course, is head coach Kyle Shanahan. Rich Scagarello is the 49ers’ quarterbacks coach, and the person from whom Garoppolo spent the most time after arriving in Santa Clara on Oct. 31 after a trade with the New England Patriots.

Garoppolo earned $3.5 million in his first four NFL seasons. His new contract makes him the NFL’s highest-paid player, making an average of $27.5 million per season, with $48.7 million fully guaranteed.

Scangarello, appearing this week on The 49ers Insider Podcast, talked about what he learned about Garoppolo from working so closely with him to teach him Shanahan's offense. Scangarello said there is no question in his mind the money will not change Garoppolo’s approach to his work.

“That’s why it was easy for the organization and everyone to invest in somebody like Jimmy Garoppolo,” Scangarello said. “I just think that’s not the kind of person he is. If you met his family, you know where he comes from, what he’s about. His brothers, his parents, are just good, solid people people. He’s made of the right stuff and I just don’t see that affecting him in that way.

“It’s just not who he is. That’s the fun part of working with somebody like that every day. When they’re really talented and they appreciate everything and they work at it, you have a chance to be a successful organization and they can be a great player. And I don’t think those things will ever affect him.”