SANTA CLARA – It is not a protest of the national anthem.
It is not a protest of the flag.
It is 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.”