Kyle Shanahan, the son of a Hall of Fame coach, never spent more than four years in any one location growing up.
The 49ers coach moved around the country, making friends with his sports teammates. He always enjoyed a diverse group of friends.
Shanahan said Thursday during a video call with Bay Area reporters that he could see the problems from an early age. He noticed how his black friends acted differently -- scared, in fact -- in the presence of police officers.
“Racism is a big deal in our country right now,” Shanahan said. “That’s a fact. That’s not debatable. It’s always been a big deal. And it is today, just as it was a hundred years ago. I think something as a white person that bothers me is I don’t think all white people realize that.”
It is a subject Shanahan said he addressed this week with his 49ers players during their virtual meetings.
Shanahan spoke to many of the team’s offensive players on Monday. The next day, he addressed most of the 49ers’ defensive players. On Wednesday, Shanahan and 49ers general manager John Lynch got on a call with about a dozen veteran players.
“Racism is all over,” Shanahan said. “And it’s what black people deal with every day. And white people are very sheltered to that and ignorant. And that’s the message that’s been missed.
“I think white people are listening more than I’ve ever heard before, which is good. And that’s the starting point because it’s happened too long.”
George Floyd, an African American man, died last week after a white police officer in Minneapolis pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd’s death sparked protests across the nation and the world.
The outcry around the country appears to be much greater than when former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began protesting in 2016. One year later, a white nationalists rally to protest the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Va. turned deadly.
“If I’m screaming for something that’s wrong, and it keeps happening, I mean, you’re going to do whatever you have to do to get people to hear you when something is that messed up,” Shanahan said. “And so each time, hell yeah, it gets worse because black people are fed up.
“And I know I’m fed up with seeing this. How do you stop this? It takes a really bad person to do something like this. The problem is, percentage-wise, there are a little too many bad people. And a community has to fix that.”
Shanahan said he and team members talked about the importance of voting to get their voices heard. He said the team also is discussing a number of ways in which it can affect change.
“The main thing is, how do you do it now? How do you do it a week from now? And how do you do it every day of your life? And I think everyone has to do that somewhat individually,” Shanahan said.
“I know our players are so passionate, black guys and white guys, about trying to fix this. But I think we all know it’s not an easy answer.”
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