49ers' Kyle Shanahan believes Colin Kaepernick deserves admiration

49ers' Kyle Shanahan believes Colin Kaepernick deserves admiration

Colin Kaepernick protested police brutality and racial inequality while with the 49ers in 2016. He has not played in the NFL since that season.

Coach Kyle Shanahan came to the 49ers in 2017 and brought his own quarterbacks with him. But even though Kaepernick was no longer around the team, many of his former teammates, including Eric Reid, remained with the organization.

More than 20 players protested by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem before a game in Indianapolis that season, prompting Vice President Mike Pence to leave the stadium in a protest of his own.

“It’s three years later, and there's still some people not understanding what his message was,” Shanahan said of Kaepernick. “And, regardless, that’s too many people not understanding the message that everyone’s been giving for a long time. And Colin did it the strongest out of anyone, and people should respect him a ton for that and admire that.”

The state of race relations in the United States and what Kaepernick was saying in 2016 now are inescapable.

George Floyd's death while in the custody of Minneapolis police last week set off demonstrations and protests not only across the United States but around the world. Video surfaced that showed an officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he struggled to breathe. Shanahan said he has addressed the issue in virtual meetings with his players every day this week.

He spoke Thursday to Bay Area media on a video call.

“Regardless of whether you agree with how he did it or not, that doesn’t matter,” Shanahan said. “What Colin was protesting was something that should be respected by all humans. That did take a lot of courage. That is something that is 1,000-percent wrong and what he was trying to fix and bring light to.

“And, gosh, it was hard to bring light to the whole country because people didn’t want to totally hear it and it got diluted with so much different stuff.”

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Shanahan supported his players’ rights to protest -- in any form -- after becoming head coach.

“These were the guys who started it and it was very clear when they would articulate it, why they were doing it,” Shanahan said. “And so the whole debate on all the other stuff, the flag, everything like, people don’t want to hear that. What he was doing was a big deal.

"Whether you disagree with how he did it or not doesn’t matter.”

CEO Jed York announced Saturday the 49ers will be donating $1 million to local and national organizations committed to social change. He also committed support for the Players Coalition, which was founded in an effort to make an impact on social justice and racial equality at the federal, state and local levels through advocacy, awareness, education and allocation of resources.

When asked how he will handle situations if his players choose to protest, Shanahan said, “Same we always have, but probably with more passion.”

He said he believes the public has a better understanding now of the reasons for the protests.

[RELATED: Middle finger up: McKinnon reacts strongly to Brees apology]

“And I’m all for protest,” Shanahan said. “I’m all for change. I hope the protest cause change. Whatever we have to do to get the change, I’m for it. I know our organization is. I know Jed is. I know our players are. We always have been.

“What’s different now, it’s embarrassing to say, probably, but I think white people are more passionate about it now than then. And that’s our ignorance. And that’s what upsets black people, and they have every right to be upset because they haven’t just been telling us this the last few weeks.

"They’ve been telling us this since our grandparents. And I’ve been hearing it from every one of my friends since I was 14.”

Why Colin Cowherd would hire 49ers' Kyle Shanahan to coach his NFL team

Why Colin Cowherd would hire 49ers' Kyle Shanahan to coach his NFL team

There currently are 32 NFL franchises, and for the vast majority of us, at no point during our lives will we have any chance of owning one of them.

But, forget reality. What if you were able to purchase a team? Who would you hire as head coach?

Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd gave his answer to that question Wednesday, but first established the five criteria by which he would form his list of the top 10 coaches he'd want to lead his franchise. They were:

1. Age does not matter 
2. Easy to work with 
3. The less controversy, the better 
4. Innovative thinker 
5. Relates to players

Based on those criteria, Cowherd landed on 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan as his top choice (h/t 49ers Web Zone).

"I know he has had a couple of Super Bowl moments you don't love," Cowherd explained Wednesday on "The Herd," "but I think San Francisco was right. I think he's intense. I think he has got the lineage from his dad (Mike Shanahan). I think he has a system, but he is nimble enough to manipulate the system and listen to (general manager) John Lynch and others. I think he's obsessively driven, which is probably most of these guys.

"But if I start my franchise today, I get the (experience from his) dad, I get him, I get playoff experience, and I also think he has got a chip on his shoulder because he thinks he should have won that Super Bowl last year. And he thinks he should have won that Atlanta Super Bowl against New England when he was the [offensive coordinator]."

Though the 49ers don't have new owners, they clearly share similar feelings about Shanahan, having just recently signed him to a six-year contract extension. He led San Francisco to a nine-win improvement this past season, and already has made it clear the expectation is to get back to the Super Bowl for a second straight year.

[RELATED: Bryant Young knows 49ers in good hands with Shanahan, Lynch]

Should the 49ers accomplish that goal -- and prove victorious in Super Bowl LV -- what few criticisms there are of Shanahan no longer would be valid.

For reference, here is Cowherd's full list:

1. Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers
2. Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills 
3. Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles 
4. Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams 
5. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens 
6. Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears 
7. Brian Flores, Miami Dolphins 
8. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma Sooners 
9. Urban Meyer, formerly Ohio State Buckeyes 
10. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers

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NFL rumors: George Kittle's 49ers contract could land around $13M annually

NFL rumors: George Kittle's 49ers contract could land around $13M annually

The elephant in the room at this point of the 49ers' offseason is the absence of a contract extension for standout tight end George Kittle. He is entering the final year of his rookie deal which will pay him $2.1 million, and is due to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the upcoming season.

After cementing himself as the best tight end in all of football over the last two seasons, Kittle's inevitable extension has long been expected to reset the market at the position. Austin Hooper currently averages the highest annual salary of any tight end after signing a four-year, $42 million contract with the Cleveland Browns in free agency earlier this offseason.

Estimates for what Kittle could average on his next contract have ranged as high as $20 million per season, but the real number likely is somewhere between there and Hooper's annual rate due to the expected drop in league revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Athletic's Matt Barrows reported Wednesday that someone "in the know" told him that Kittle ultimately would get a contract extension averaging $13 million per season.

That's a far cry from $20 million, but as Barrows noted, it still would make Kittle the highest-paid tight end by a fairly wide margin. Though Kittle probably is worth more than that, the salary-cap uncertainty caused by COVID-19 likely will rule out the possibility of a market-shattering contract. The unprecedented situation could result in a creative deal.

[RELATED: Report: NFL preseason halved; 49ers-Raiders game remains]

The Athletic's David Lombardi recently suggested that it might make sense for Kittle and the 49ers to come to an agreement on a contract that is partially tied to the size of the salary cap moving forward. 

"The 49ers can offer Kittle a guaranteed base annual salary or signing bonus before using a percentage-of-the-cap scale on top of that to pay him commensurate to cap increases in future years, when the NFL’s revenue outlook should be rosier," Lombardi wrote. "That's just an idea. But since this is uncharted territory, creative contract structures cannot be ruled out -- especially if they help break a potentially problematic impasse."

Creativity aside, if an agreement can't be reached on a contract extension, the 49ers would still have the ability to apply the franchise tag to Kittle -- which would pay him the average of the top five tight-end salaries -- for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. That option obviously wouldn't provide Kittle with the long-term security he likely desires, but there's ample motivation on both sides to get a deal done for San Francisco's most indispensable offensive player.

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