Although the San Francisco 49ers made headlines last year when Colin Kaepernick, then their starting quarterback, began kneeling during the national anthem to protest social injustice in America, they missed out on last weekend’s mass NFL demonstrations against President Donald Trump.
Trump called protesting players “sons of bitches” at a rally last Friday night, and followed up the attack on Twitter throughout the weekend. Virtually every team –players and owners – orchestrated a protest of some kind Sunday and Monday night to show solidarity and defiance in the face of Trump’s divisiveness.
But not the Niners. No, they hadn’t taken Trump’s side in the debate. They missed their chance to respond because they played their game Thursday night, the day before Trump’s petty attack.
They made up for lost time today with perhaps the largest and most pointed protest any single team has yet executed. Playing on the road in Phoenix, Arizona, dozens of players kneeled before the national anthem, but they stayed on their knees as the national anthem began playing, a move that drew boos from many hometown Cardinals fans.
And just to be sure the President got the message, a statement was issued shortly after the demonstration detailing exactly what the team was protesting, and who was behind it.
“As players, coaches, ownership and staff, we are privileged to work in an environment that is a tremendous example of how people can come together for a common goal,” the statement reads. “We not only put our differences aside, but we also use them to achieve that common goal by challenging each other to be better – both in our professional and personal lives.”
“Today,” the statement continues, “our team chose to publicly display our unity in a new way, and in turn, urge others to do the same.”
That wasn’t all. The statement specifically names “oppression and social injustices still present in our society,” as the root cause of today’s act of defiance. “While some may have not taken a knee or raised a fist, we have all shared the desire to influence positive change.”
You can read the 49ers statement in its entirety below:
At its purest level, football is a unifier of people from all walks of life, different socio-economic backgrounds, every corner of this country and around the world. As players, coaches, ownership and staff, we are privileged to work in an environment that is a tremendous example of how people can come together for a common goal. We not only put our differences aside, but we also use them to achieve that common goal by challenging each other to be better – both in our professional and personal lives.
For more than a year, members of our team have protested the oppression and social injustices still present in our society. While some may not have taken a knee or raised a fist, we have all shared the desire to influence positive change. Today, our team chose to publicly display our unity in a new way and, in turn, urge others do the same. Our demonstration is simply a representation of how we hope our country can also come together by putting differences aside and solving its problems.
As the majority of us have done throughout our careers, we use our platform as members of a NFL team, and our right to freedom of expression, to speak up for those whose voice is not heard. It is important that we continue to emphasize that despite our different backgrounds and beliefs, we still love each other and are truly a brotherhood. Our gesture today was an intentional effort to demonstrate that. Make no mistake, we love this great country and have tremendous respect for our military and veterans who have sacrificed so much for our right to express ourselves freely. We passionately want what is best for this country and all its citizens.
On behalf of the San Francisco 49ers organization, we urge our fellow citizens to embrace your differences, find strength in them, and come together for the good of all