As protests happen all over the world stemming from George Floyd's death in police custody in Minneapolis, CEO Jed York announced Saturday night the 49ers will be donating $1 million to local and national organizations committed to social change.
Two days later, York explained his decision to do so in an interview with the NFL Network's Jim Trotter on Monday morning.
"Any time you see heinous acts, you have to be able to call them out," York said. "But in terms of the pledge, I think it's very important that actions and words need to go together if you're going to facilitate change in America, and that's what we wanted to do."
Spoke to 49ers CEO Jed York about the organization's $1 million pledge toward social justice and why he felt compelled to call by name the root of the problem: racism. pic.twitter.com/PLL3y9YvEB— Jim Trotter (@JimTrotter_NFL) June 1, 2020
In September 2016, the 49ers made a $1 million donation, matching the commitment of then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, to two Bay Area charities that address social issues in collaboration with law enforcement. Kaepernick was a member of the 49ers in 2016 when he first took a knee during the national anthem before a preseason game to protest social and racial injustices, including with the police.
Kaepernick hasn't played in the NFL since the 2016 season.
"We started some social justice work and using that term when Colin started his protest," York said. "I think we'd always been working in this area but it was clear to label it social justice. ... I think the piece that we missed in 2016, and it's a fairly simple piece, I don't know if anybody actually addressed what the issue was, and we're trying to fight racism in this country.
"I think that's what we need to clearly call out, and you can't defeat something if you can't admit that's actually what you're fighting."
York believes Kaepernick "ignited the athlete's voice" by his peaceful protest, despite the fact that the 49ers told Kaepernick he would have been cut if he didn't opt out of his contract and he hasn't received a contract offer from another team since his one season of kneeling.
"We need to continue work that Colin drew attention to four years ago in 2016, and we need to continue to let our players, first and foremost, know they have a voice to be able to speak out," York said. "But we have to help them effectuate that change and get to a place where we have a better America."
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