Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan discusses racism, says it’s time to ‘open your eyes’

Jun 4, 2020 at 1:02 PM--

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke to the media for the first time since the NFL schedule was released nearly a month ago, to local reporters for the first time since after the draft, and for the first time since the most recent heinous crimes of social injustice.

Shanahan, during a video conference call on Thursday, spoke a great deal about his feelings surrounding the racism that, sadly, continues to exist.

"I think one thing that bothers me the most," Shanahan said, "just throughout this all, and throughout my own life experiences and stuff, is racism is a big deal in our country right now. That's a fact. That's not debatable. It's always been a big deal, and it is today just like it was 100 years ago."

The coach was passionate about the topic, sharing stories of his friendships while growing up, and noticing how some of those friends saw the world differently than himself.

"I moved everywhere in my life," Shanahan shared. "I never lived anywhere longer than four years, so I've been all over this country, and I've had all types of friends. One thing I can tell you is consistent, some of my friends, some of my Black friends, some of the toughest guys I've been around, just awesome dudes who I've never seen get scared of anything. And I can't tell you how many times I'm with one of my Black friends, and we're around a cop, and I can feel something different in those guys. They are scared, and it's something that has always bothered me."

Shanahan wondered how, in 2020, minorities are so underrepresented in sports.

"How the heck are there only four Black coaches out of 32 head coaches?" Shanahan asked. "How are there only two (Black) GMs?"

Shanahan also discussed the diversity among his staff, which isn't something the head coach intentionally pursued. He just wanted to bring in people who could help his football team win, and that naturally resulted in a diverse staff.

Shanahan spoke proudly of his children, who don't see race as a divider when it comes to building relationships, and he hopes that never changes.

The coach knows that the issues surrounding racism have been avoided for far too long and that not everyone is as well-informed about the topic as they could be, thinking it is something you only find in history books. That is changing.

"There's different parts of this country and stuff, but a lot of white people, if they don't see it, they don't think it's happening," Shanahan said. "They associate racism with slavery and stuff from a long time ago. They're in certain parts where if they don't see it, they don't think it's happening, and that's the problem.

"Racism's all over (the country), and it's what black people deal with every day. And white people are very sheltered to that and ignorant, and I think that's the message that's been missed."

Shanahan sees this as a potential turning point for the country. It's an opportunity to right a longtime wrong.

"It's gone on way too long," Shanahan added. "I think now, I think white people are listening more than I've ever heard before, which is good. That's a starting point because it's happened too long. It's very clear, and I don't want to debate it anymore. No one does. Open your eyes."

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