York: Kaepernick’s protest may have taken 49ers off track but it brought players together

May 3, 2017 at 11:26 AM--

Much has been said about former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the stance he took against social injustice last season by kneeling during pre-game national anthems. The former starting quarterback voided the remaining year of his contract with the 49ers and remains a free agent looking for a shot with another NFL team.

Much has also been said about the reasoning for his continued unemployment. Some believe that he is being blackballed by the NFL due to his controversial stance. Others believe that he is not a starting caliber quarterback and that NFL teams are not willing to give him a chance as a backup because of the very specific scheme that he fits into. Then there are others who believe that some owners just want to stay away from Kaepernick and won't allow their team to even consider the possibility of adding him to their rosters.

49ers CEO Jed York was on The MMQB podcast with Peter King on Tuesday and discussed how he viewed the Kaepernick protest from the inside. York was publicly supportive of Kaepernick's stance, going so far as to donate $1 million to two Bay Area groups in support of the cause.

"He was voted our sort of team leader last year," York said. "He had the Len Eshmont Award, which is a very big award on this team and there were players that didn't like what he did. There was certainly a clear divide in the locker room but I think people respected that it started a dialogue that instead of -- we're not going to talk about something that's going to be, 'Well, this is your issue and I don't like what your issue is.' I think he actually started a dialogue of guys that didn't necessarily talk all the time.

"It might have taken us off track from what our purpose is – to win football games, but I think in the bigger scheme of things, I think it laid a foundation of something where we allowed guys from different backgrounds and different walks of life to openly discuss things in the locker room and hopefully, over the long run, that brings your locker room closer together."

York was asked if he believes that Kaepernick has a future in football or some sort of social justice effort. "I think it depends on what he wants to do," York answered. "I know he's passionate about social justice and I think he was willing to sacrifice the potential future football career for things that he felt was important. For him, I think he's a very talented player. He is a good kid. There's a lot of people that misunderstand Kap and misrepresent Kap. It doesn't mean that he's perfect. It doesn't mean that you have to like everything that he did but I think if he gets a chance, I know he's going to work hard at football but I know what his passion is in terms of making the world a better place and that's real. That's not something that was drummed up and is fake. That's real."

If one of the other NFL owners contacted York and asked him about possibly bringing Kaepernick in and asked if he would be a distraction, how would he respond? "I think Colin has said that he's not going to take a knee," York said. "So I think, from his standpoint, I think he knows if he's going to play in the NFL, he doesn't want to be a distraction and I think he's figured out over the last year how to balance and separate being a football player and doing things for social justice. So I don't think he would be a major distraction for folks and it will be interesting to see what happens between now and the start of the season, whether someone picks him up."

You can listen to the entire podcast interview on The MMQB.

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