Just two days after Jed York announced the San Francisco 49ers would be committing $1 million to local and national organizations for social change, the CEO has added more context to his decision.
Speaking to Jim Trotter of NFL Network’s program NFL Now, the 49ers CEO touched on a myriad of topics related to the donation, from the relationship between actions and words to what former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s 2016 protest means in the current setting.
“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.”
— Jed York (@JedYork) May 31, 2020
Kaepernick started 75 games over five seasons with San Francisco, including 2012, when the quarterback and the 49ers made a run to Super Bowl XLVII, falling short to the Baltimore Ravens 34-31.
A few years later, Kaepernick kneeled during the National Anthem during a 2016 preseason game, sparking a national conversation about his actions and social injustice in the United States.
Additional Comments About Kaepernick
York had more to say on NFL Network, especially about Kaepernick and the 49ers past. San Francisco matched Kaepernick’s $1 million donation back in 2016 and said that the team has a duty to continue working to assist in social justice matters.
“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.”
While the 49ers did match Kaepernick’s donation, his time after the 49ers made the effort was limited, with the quarterback being cut from San Francisco after the 2016 season.
Kaepernick’s Recent Commitment & Potential Response
York’s donation comes after Kaepernick’s recent commitment of $100,000 to a legal defense fund for Minneapolis, Minnesota protesters started by his social justice organization Know Your Rights Camp. Protests in Minnesota as well as across the country have continued since the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd, who died while in police custody.
While Kaepernick has not released a direct response to the organization’s commitment, he did retweet fellow former 49er Eric Reid, who said that the CEO begged Reid not to kneel.
You speak based on your experience and I understand that. However, I can tell you that you never heard him say “don’t kneel” because you never knelt. He begged me not to kneel. https://t.co/UrNPW3YzOG
— Eric Reid (@E_Reid35) May 31, 2020
Reid’s statement mentions a conflicting experience that former 49ers receiver Torrey Smith had compared to Reid and Kaepernick’s. Reid was drafted by the 49ers in the 2013 NFL Draft, being selected as the 18th overall pick out of LSU.
Reid was the second 49ers and league player to kneel during a playing of the national anthem, and, like Kaepernick, filed a grievance against the league after no teams signed the free agent when the safety left Santa Clara, California, eventually joining the Carolina Panthers.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, MT. Follow and reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier.