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.”

Roger Goodell: 'What we are trying to stay out of is politics'


Roger Goodell: 'What we are trying to stay out of is politics'

NEW YORK — The NFL is not changing its national anthem policy to require players to stand during the national anthem.

Commissioner Roger Goodell and several owners said Wednesday at the league’s fall meetings that altering the language from “should stand” to “must stand” was not discussed.

New York Giants owner John Mara noted that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones “spoke at length” to the other owners about the anthem issue. Jones has said any Dallas player who doesn’t stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” would not be playing.

Goodell reiterated that the league and its 32 clubs “believe everyone should stand for the national anthem. It’s an important part of our policy and the game. It’s important to honor our flag and our country and I think our fans expect that.”

Asked about any owners who threatened discipline for players who didn’t stand, Goodell said the owners didn’t discuss it.

“There was a fair amount of conversation and I think our clubs see it the same way. I can’t deal with hypotheticals,” Goodell said.

Reminded that President Donald Trump tweeted again Wednesday about the demonstrations during the anthem, Goodell said there was nothing unpatriotic about his league.

“Everyone feels strongly about our country and have pride,” he said, adding the NFL is “not afraid of tough conversations.

“What we are trying to stay out of is politics.”

Goodell noted that only six or seven players are still kneeling or are involved in protests.

“We hope we will continue to work to put that at zero,” he said.

On Tuesday, in an unprecedented move for a league meeting, a group of 11 owners and more than a dozen players met for more than two hours at NFL headquarters. Among the topics discussed was enhancing the players’ platforms for speaking out on social issues.

“I understand the way they feel about these issues,” Goodell said Wednesday. “We feel the same about patriotism and the flag and I believe our players feel that way. We have a great deal of support for the efforts of our players.”

Trump blasts NFL for not demanding players stand during national anthem


Trump blasts NFL for not demanding players stand during national anthem

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is again criticizing the NFL over players kneeling during the national anthem.

Trump said on Twitter Wednesday that the “NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our National Anthem.”

He adds: “Total disrespect for our great country!”

Trump appeared to be responding to the NFL annual fall meeting on Tuesday. The league invited players and representatives from their union to discuss social issues.

The topic of the national anthem was not discussed at length. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said owners did not ask players to commit to standing during the anthem.

Trump has suggested the owners should “fire” any players who knelt during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”