Exclusive: Reid explains strategic reason for kneeling during national anthem

Exclusive: Reid explains strategic reason for kneeling during national anthem

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.”

2020 NFL Draft: How 49ers' John Lynch prepares while working from home


2020 NFL Draft: How 49ers' John Lynch prepares while working from home

The 2020 NFL Draft will be held as scheduled -- albeit remotely -- amid the coronavirus pandemic, keeping 49ers general manager John Lynch plenty busy during California's shelter-in-place order.

In-person visits with prospects at the team's facility or elsewhere are off, but Lynch said he is able to make the most of watching film of potential picks while working from his home office.

“People have a lot bigger problems than we do, I can tell you that,” Lynch told NBC Sports' Peter King for his "Football Morning in America" column. “This year’s a lot different than any year scouts and GMs have had, obviously, with all the challenges. But this time of year, what you really need is time.

"The other day, [coach] Kyle [Shanahan] called and said, ‘This is unbelievable! I’m getting so much done.’ And he’s right. He and I, this time of year, would be watching this tape in our offices, and the difference is our doors aren’t getting knocked on 50 times a day. I’m really getting a lot done.”

Lynch and Shanahan have more prospects to examine than they did a month ago. The 49ers acquired another first-round draft pick -- No. 13 overall -- when they traded dominant defensive lineman DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts. San Francisco, before then, was scheduled to make its first pick with the No. 31 overall selection.

[RELATED: 49ers' Jones switches agencies entering final year of deal]

That additional prep very well could've included watching Louisville's Mekhi Becton, whose Cardinals were on-screen in footage Lynch was watching during a video posted to social media last week showing how he was preparing for the draft at home. The offensive lineman is projected to be a top-10 pick next month, and Lynch simply wouldn't have had much reason to watch him with the 49ers' first pick set for the very end of the first round.

We'll know some of the players whom Lynch, Shanahan and the rest of the 49ers closely watched when the NFL draft begins April 23. The 49ers currently have seven picks: Two in the first round, two in the fifth, one in the sixth and two in the seventh.

Colts' DeForest Buckner, Sheldon Day driven by 49ers' Super Bowl loss


Colts' DeForest Buckner, Sheldon Day driven by 49ers' Super Bowl loss

Sheldon Day and DeForest Buckner will be teammates on a new team next season, driven by the last loss with their old one.

The defensive linemen joined the Indianapolis Colts this offseason via free agency and trade, respectively, after playing together for the 49ers since midway through the 2017 season. Day and Buckner's final games with San Francisco were in the 49ers' 31-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, and Day said the pair has additional motivation after not lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy last season.

"It was right there in our hands, and all we had to do was squeeze it and grab it (in Super Bowl LIV), and we let up," Day told reporters on his introductory conference call last week (via Colts.com). "So ultimately we have a chip on our shoulders and we know how to get there, and now we know what to do to overcome that shortcoming that we had."

Buckner sacked eventual Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes 1.5 times in the game, accounting for three of the 49ers' nine QB hits. Day, meanwhile, played a little over half of San Francisco's 76 defensive snaps and picked up a tackle.

[RELATED: 49ers' Jones switches agencies entering final year of deal]

The Indianapolis native played in a career-high 16 games with the 49ers during the 2019 regular season, and Day started each of San Francisco's playoff games. Day credited his growth to playing with Buckner, and he's going to continue picking his brain while they're still teammates.

"DeForest (has) made me detail my game," Day said. "So we would be working on pass-rush moves, bouncing ideas off of each other, just trying to make sure that our game grew together, and we're always giving each other tips. If I see something on film [I'm reaching] out to him, and vice versa. So, man, what a special guy he is."

All the while, the 49ers' Super Bowl LIV won't be far from either player's mind.