SANTA CLARA – Colin Kaepernick is on the cover of TIME magazine.
Obviously, the 49ers’ backup quarterback has drawn national attention, not for his play on the field, but for his protest that has inspired more dialogue into racial inequalities in America.
Coach Chip Kelly said Kaepernick’s stance on social issues has not impacted his work with the 49ers.
“When he’s here, he’s going full-bore,” Kelly said on Thursday. “We’re here until 8:15, when we get here in the morning, until 5, when we leave. He’s at every meeting. He’s done everything.
“There hasn’t been any, ‘Hey, coach, I need some time because I got this going on.’ He hasn’t done that. He understands what his job is. He’s balanced it really well, and he’s managed it really well. He’s focused. He’s dialed-in when we’re at practice. He’s dialed-in when we’re at meetings.”
Kelly has previously supported Kaepernick’s right to express himself with his protest during the national anthem. In the first three games of the exhibition season, Kaepernick retreated to the bench and sat down. In the past three games – the final exhibition game and the first two regular-season games – Kaepernick and safety Eric Reid have taken a knee during the national anthem.
As Kaepernick’s movement has gained momentum among professional and amateur athletes, his message has transcended sports.
“I think it’s an issue – you look at what’s gone on in Tulsa and Charlotte in the last two nights,” Kelly said. “It’s an issue that’s at the forefront of our country and it needs to be addressed, needs to be taken care of, because what’s going on is not right.
“I think he’s shedding light on a situation that is heinous. It shouldn’t happen in this country. We all have inalienable rights as a citizen of this country that are being violated. That’s what I think Colin is standing up for.”
Kelly also supported Kaepernick taking advantage of his platform as an employee of the 49ers and the National Football League to enable his message to reach a larger audience.
Columnist Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat told Kelly during his press conference that he believes Kaepernick took over the locker room to hold a question-and-answer session on the subject after the 49ers’ season-opening win against the Los Angeles Rams.
“He’s asked questions about a subject and he’s answered those questions,” Kelly responded.
Kelly said he felt it was appropriate for Kaepernick to make himself available to the media’s questions -- on whatever topic.
“When he’s asked a question, I think he should answer what his feelings are on those questions,” Kelly said.
Cohn said he disagreed that Kaepernick should be using the 49ers’ locker room to voice his societal concerns. Kelly responded, referencing their right to disagree and debate the subject, “(That’s the) great thing about this country, isn’t it?”
The 49ers said Kaepernick has turned down repeated requests from national media organizations for one-on-one interviews. NFL players must be made available to speak to the media regularly, and Kaepernick has made himself available for questions approximately once a week since he went public with his protest.
On Tuesday, Kaepernick began speaking informally with a handful of reporters near his locker. When the conversation turned more serious, Kaepernick spent 15 minutes speaking on non-football matters on the record for his media availability for the week.