SANTA CLARA (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers won’t be forcing their players to stand during the national anthem, safety Eric Reid said Wednesday.
Reid, the first player to join Colin Kaepernick in protest last season, said he had a conversation recently with 49ers CEO Jed York, who indicated he will continue to support his players if they decide to kneel during the national anthem to protest social injustice.
“He’s expressed very clearly that he wants to support us, that he’s not going to force us to do anything,” Reid said. “Speaking for our team, that’s what he’s told me explicitly.”
More than 20 49ers kneeled during the anthem during the last two games, while teammates stood behind them with hands on their shoulders. That was in reaction to President Trump’s condemnation at a rally last month of any player that didn’t stand. Trump called for owners to release players who did not stand.
Vice President Mike Pence attended the game Sunday in Indianapolis and walked out after seeing those 49ers kneel, tweeting, “I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem.”
At its regularly scheduled fall meetings next week, the NFL will discuss the anthem issue. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a memo circulated to league executives that the anthem topic is dividing the league from its fans, and the league needs to move beyond the controversy.
That came days after Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, one of the NFL’s most influential voices, said all players on his team with stand or won’t play.
“I know this, we cannot ... in the NFL in any way give the implication that we tolerate disrespecting the flag,” Jones said Sunday after a loss to the Packers.
“We know that there is a serious debate in this country about those issues, but there is no question in my mind that the National Football League and the Dallas Cowboys are going to stand up for the flag. So we’re clear.”
Jones said a recent phone conversation with Trump included the president saying there was an NFL rule forcing players to stand. The league has no such rule, but its game operations manual references that players should stand. The league does not plan on punishing players for taking a knee.
Reid, 25, is the 49ers’ player representative to the union. He said he believed any change would have to be collectively bargained. The players’ union and league on Wednesday released a joint statement saying NFLPA leaders would be attending the owners’ meetings in New York.