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Shanahan on possible 49ers protest on Sunday: ‘I anticipate us doing something together’

Sep 27, 2017 at 1:38 PM

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According to Peter King of The MMQB, fewer than 10 NFL players were protesting prior to President Trump's controversial comments on Friday night saying that team owners should "fire" any player that disrespects the American flag by not standing for the national anthem. On the Sunday following the comments, according to The MMQB, more than 250 players took part in response to the comments.

Wednesday presented the first opportunity for the media to ask San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan about President Trump's comments, which team CEO Jed York called "callous and offensive." He also shared whether or not the 49ers would follow the rest of the NFL and do something as a team on Sunday when they face the Arizona Cardinals, which will be their first game since the comments made by President Trump.

"We had a good discussion about it Monday, as a team," said Shanahan. "John and I got one-on-one with our leadership council. Spoke with them. The players are getting together talking about the best way they want to do it. We'll continue to talk about it as the week goes."

"I anticipate us doing something together," Shanahan continued. "I think that's really what it's about. I'm not exactly sure what [we will do]. I know the players are talking about that. They're going to think about the best thing that they want to do and whatever we decide, hopefully, we decide to do it together."

Shanahan said that 49ers safety Eric Reid has been a source for him to have a broader perspective of what is going on and the intentions behind it.

"I was pretty bothered by [President Trump's comments], I think the same way most people were," Shanahan said. "I've got a lot of regard for that position. My whole life, that's a very important, big position, to be the leader of our country. When you hear something like that, it definitely bothered me – especially when he is calling out people that you are associated with.

"The most bothersome thing, I think, is how everyone sees that position and our country. You expect that position to be the best leader possible and when I think of being a leader, I think of bringing people together. All I know is the quotes I read. When I read those quotes, I think that's the opposite of what you're expecting."

Shanahan said that everyone who he has spoken to on the team feels similarly. He went on to say that the whole NFL felt called out by President Trump. Shanahan said that it was strange to read comments like that on Saturday morning from the highest office in the country and that Sunday's reaction around the NFL was not a surprise to him.

"I kind of had a good idea how people in this league would react to it," Shanahan said.

President Trump spoke at a campaign rally in Huntsville, Alabama and continued to express his disapproval over protests of the national anthem which took place – at the time – by a limited number of players across the NFL.

"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners," said President Trump, "when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he's fired. He's fired!'"

The comments were followed by cheers from the crowd in attendance.

"You know some owner is going to do that," Trump continued. "He's going to say, 'That guy disrespects our flag; he's fired.' And that owner, they don't know it. They're friends of mine, many of them. They'll be the most popular person, for a week. They'll be the most popular person in this country."

On Saturday morning, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, DeMaurice Smith, issued the following response to the comments by President Trump and asked for the league to issue an official response as well.

The NFL was quick to answer the request by Smith, issuing the following statement from commissioner Roger Goodell.

"The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we've experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities."

49ers CEO Jed York, along with most NFL team owners, issued their own statements chastizing President Trump for his comments and showing support for their players. York said the following via his statement.

"The callous and offensive comments made by the President are contradictory to what this great country stands for. Our players have exercised their rights as United States citizens in order to spark conversation and action to address social injustice. We will continue to support them in their peaceful pursuit of positive change in our country and around the world. The San Francisco 49ers will continue to work toward bringing communities, and those who serve them, closer together."

During the first full day of football following President Trump's comments, the number of protestors ballooned from the few who were participating prior to Friday's comments. The comments, which had already prompted responses from owners, were challenged by a massive number of players and coaches. Entire teams locked arms as a show of unity while other players decided to kneel or sit during the national anthem.

"The way we reacted today, and this weekend, made me proud," Goodell said via The MMQB. "I'm proud of our league."

According to King, Goodell would not say how he personally felt about the comments from President Trump, but someone who spoke to him said that the commissioner was profoundly disappointed in what was said.

Goodell was not surprised by the number of protests around the NFL. "They reflected the frustration, the disappointment, of the players over the divisive rhetoric we heard [from Trump]," he said.

Player protests gained notoriety last season when former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem during the NFL preseason. It was viewed as a controversial stance that many believe cost the quarterback a job in the league.

"People don't realize what's really going on in this country," Kaepernick told the media last year as he initially explained his reasoning for the protest. "There are a lot of things that are going on that are unjust. People aren't being held accountable for. And that's something that needs to change. That's something that this country stands for freedom, liberty, and justice for all. And it's not happening for all right now."

Reid, who had joined Kaepernick in his protest last season, continues to kneel during the national anthem. While he has had the support of several teammates who stand next to him before each game and place their hands on his shoulder while he kneels, it will be interesting to see if he has further support on Sunday when the 49ers face the Cardinals in Glendale, Arizona.

In August, Reid spoke to reporters and said he was glad the protest with Kaepernick helped to spread awareness but didn't appreciate the false narrative that went along with it.

"People were saying that we were un-American, that we were against police entirely, and the military, and that just wasn't true," Reid said. "And at first, I thought that was a small sacrifice to pay to get the word out, to raise that awareness. And I settled with raising that awareness was victory. And then fast forward to Charlottesville and the country sees what an un-American protest really looks like and that's when I had my change of heart.

"What Colin, Eli, and I did was a peaceful protest fueled by our faith in God to help make our country a better place and I feel like I need to regain control of that narrative and not let people say that what we're doing is un-American because it's not. It's completely American. We're doing it because we want equality for everybody. We want our country to be a better place. That's why I decided to resume the protest."

On Monday, Reid wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times which included his thoughts about President Trump's comments.

"And it's disheartening and infuriating that President Trump has referred to us with slurs but the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., as 'very fine people,'" wrote Reid. "His remarks are a clear attempt to deepen the rift that we've tried so hard to mend."

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