San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, general manager John Lynch, safety Eric Reid, quarterback Brian Hoyer, and numerous other players told the media this week that the team was planning to do something in order to display unity prior to kickoff against the Arizona Cardinals. After all, the 49ers were one of just two teams that were unable to participate in the massive league-wide protests that took place a week ago.

Prior to kickoff, Lynch and 49ers CEO Jed York were with the team on the sidelines at University of Pheonix Stadium. Half of the 49ers team knelt during the national anthem prior to kickoff while the crowd of fans at the stadium let out boos following the gesture. The other half of the team was behind those who knelt with their arms on the kneeling players' shoulders. All 49ers players had their hands over their hearts during the anthem.

The 49ers released the following statement from the players, coaches, ownership, and staff:

"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."

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Protests around the NFL escalated last weekend following controversial comments made by President Trump the day after the 49ers and Los Angeles Rams played their last game. Trump attacked players and the league in a tirade that took place during a campaign rally in Huntsville, Alabama on the evening of September 22. At the time, fewer than 10 NFL players were protesting the national anthem to show opposition to unjust actions across the country.

"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. President Trump went on to say that he believed an NFL owner would do it one day and in turn become "the most popular person in this country."

What followed was a massive response from a massive number of NFL players, coaches, and owners. The NFL Players Association, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and York chastised the President for his comments. York called the comments "callous and offensive."

It is interesting that the 49ers were among the two teams unable to display a demonstration last weekend. After all, the protest originated in San Francisco with quarterback Colin Kaepernick first sitting during the national anthem for preseason games in 2016. The sitting turned to kneeling after Kaepernick spoke to former Green Beret and Seattle Seahawks long-snapper Nate Boyer, who recommended the new method of protest as a way to show respect for the flag during his protest.

49ers safety Eric Reid, who continues the protest this season, joined Kaepernick shortly after. Reid had considered ending his protest this season but the events in Charlottesville and what he called the false narrative targeting the protests changed his mind.

"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 in August. "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 [Harold], 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."

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