49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has met with his players by position group, from the skill players to the offensive line, from the defensive line to the defensive backs, to create an open dialogue about both the blatant and underlying systemic racism in American society exposed by yet another act of police brutality against an African American.
Shanahan also met with a veteran group to discuss the issue and help decide what the 49ers can do to create positive change.
“We’re going to do a lot,” Shanahan said Thursday in a video conference with reporters. “There’s nothing specific yet, but our guys are working hard on it.”
George Floyd’s death while in police custody, after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee against his neck for nearly nine minutes, has sparked outrage and social unrest in American society and the international community as a whole.
It has also heightened and broadened the desire to prevent such acts in the future and eliminate this American plague for good.
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Shanahan and his 49ers players believe they have found a place where they can help, by addressing an impressionable group that often views them as role models.
“We talk about that a lot, and what I hear the most from the players, which I believe in a ton, too, is what we can do for the youth and setting examples,” Shanahan said. “If all kids could watch our players interacting with each other, that’s how all people should interact with each other.”
Shanahan’s the son of a coach and is grateful to be someone who moved around a lot and interacted with a diverse football community, an experience that made him comfortable around people of all backgrounds. He believes that experience could benefit everyone and make communities more tolerant.
“I feel very fortunate that I have been around these situations because I’ve been in a football locker room since I was born,” Shanahan said. “You’re around everybody and it makes it comfortable, and the stuff people are born with and around [as a child] doesn’t leave.”
He wants his children to continue growing up in that environment. He hopes the 49ers can set a proper example for people young and older and help stop the racism passed down from one generation to the next.
“That’s the stuff we have to keep doing,” Shanahan said. “Well, how do we do that? You have to vote. You have to change all that stuff, which takes time. That may be the most important thing. How can we educate people on that? How can we make a difference? That’s something our players are looking into. Everybody wants to put money in the right spot, but you don’t want to just throw money around because people have thrown a lot of money at this stuff over the last 20 years and no one sees a ton of progress. There definitely isn’t enough, not until this type of stuff never happens.”
The 49ers don’t plan on just one action or only leadership by example. Instead, it will be a prolonged, thought-out effort to make a difference in this defining social issue.
“I know that our players are so passionate, black guys and white guys, about trying to fix this,” Shanahan said. “We know it’s not an easy answer. It’s the whole country admitting what is wrong. It isn’t debatable. We need to come out from being sheltered or ignorant or whatever it is. Whoever those people are, kids need to help their parents and the parents need to help their parents. We all need to speak about it and do [something about it].”