It all started with sitting down during the anthem, which no one noticed at first. Here's how quarterback Colin Kaepernick's anthem protest turned into a pivotal movement for the NFL and its players. Eric Garland McClatchy
It all started with sitting down during the anthem, which no one noticed at first. Here's how quarterback Colin Kaepernick's anthem protest turned into a pivotal movement for the NFL and its players. Eric Garland McClatchy

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San Francisco 49ers

49ers’ Eric Reid: Jed York won’t force us to stand for national anthem

By Matt Barrows

mbarrows@sacbee.com

October 11, 2017 02:31 PM

UPDATED October 12, 2017 08:07 AM

SANTA CLARA

NFL owners will meet next week to discuss how they should handle player protests during the national anthem, but Eric Reid on Wednesday said he’s received assurance from 49ers CEO Jed York that he and teammates won’t be forced to stand.

“I’ve talked to Jed,” said Reid, who is the 49ers’ union representative and who has knelt during every anthem this season. “And he’s expressed very clearly that he wants to support us. That he’s not going to force us to do anything. Speaking for our team, that’s what he’s told me explicitly.”

Some owners think differently.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Stephen Ross of the Miami Dolphins said this week that their players must stand for the anthem moving forward this season. And a statement from Commissioner Roger Goodell this week urged players to stand during the ceremony.

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“Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem,” Goodell wrote to teams. “It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us. We also care deeply about our players and respect their opinions and concerns about critical social issues. The controversy over the anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues. We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players.”

Goodell said the league is considering giving players a platform during the season to highlight social issues, which have been the subject of their protests.

San Francisco 49ers strong safety Eric Reid kneels during the singing of the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in Seattle.
John Froschauer AP

Reid began kneeling last year next to quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Thirty 49ers knelt with their hands over the hearts before a game in Arizona on Oct. 1 while more than 20 did so Sunday in Indianapolis.

Vice President Mike Pence left the stadium after the anthem and then issued several critical tweets about the team’s protest, which further inflamed the issue.

Reid said he didn’t think the league could adopt a rule at next week’s meeting in New York requiring players to stand unless it is part of collective bargaining. NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith also will attend the meeting.

“I don’t know if they can do that,” Reid said. “I guess we’ll find out soon.”

Smoke in the air – Air quality in Santa Clara was poor Wednesday because of the fires in the North Bay. Kyle Shanahan, however, said he did not consider curbing his team’s activity.

“We need to practice,” the coach said. “We need to go through there. Hopefully our guys can handle it. I think they’ll be able to. I think it’s pretty important to get all our reps in at practice.”

The 49ers, Raiders, A’s, Giants, San Jose Earthquakes, San Jose Sharks and the Golden State Warriors announced a collective donation of $450,000 to help the victims of those fires.

Et cetera – Both Reid (knee) and linebacker Reuben Foster (ankle) returned to practice as expected. Foster looked further along in his recovery than Reid, who has a brace on his knee. Shanahan was noncommittal as to whether either would play Sunday, saying he wanted to see them in action this week before deciding.

▪ Tackle Joe Staley, linebacker NaVorro Bowman and receiver Pierre Garcon were given veteran rest days. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk did not practice with a back issue. Ten players, including cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (concussion), were limited in practice. Witherspoon wore a blue, no-contact jersey.

▪ The 49ers released Noble Nwachukwu from the practice squad and replaced him with another rookie defensive lineman, Jeremy Liggins. There was some thought the 49ers might add safety Lorenzo Jerome to the practice squad after he was waived Monday. Shanahan said there’s a possibility Jerome returns at some point. “I’m not totally writing him off at all,” he said.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.