Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick became the face of the national anthem protests last season. Two of his teammates, Eli Harold and Eric Reid, later joined him.
While Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett and Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat during the anthem in games over the weekend, every 49ers player, including Harold and Reid, stood before their team’s preseason opener.
49ers General Manager John Lynch was asked his feelings on the anthem protests.
“We had a great deal the other day where we had four chairs up here, and there was Steve Young and Jerry Rice,” Lynch said in quotes distributed by the team. “And they talked about ‘The 49er Way.’ And I always thought that’s one of the great things about this league. As a matter of fact, I think it’s a great beacon for the rest of culture, in terms of the way it should be. You strive for a common goal, and you have unity.
“And I think this game brings people together. So I think personally, when I see that, I think that’s divisive. And I understand guys see things, and they’re not happy. They have that right, and I think we’ll always respect people’s rights. That doesn’t mean I believe that. I believe this game should be celebrated for what it is. I think [it’s] a tremendous unifier for our country and for the way things should be.”
Lynch said he would talk to any of his players who chose to protest during the anthem.
“I think we’ll always communicate,” Lynch said. “We think overcommunicating is a good thing. We haven’t faced that situation. If we do, we’ll communicate.”
Lynch cited his former coach at Stanford, Bill Walsh, who spoke often of football being a unifier.
“You take guys from all over the county, different socio-economic backgrounds, racial backgrounds, and you have friends for life,” Lynch said, mentioning his former teammate Warren Sapp was in town visiting the 49ers on Wednesday. “Those types of stories I think get lost in something like this. But they’ve got their reasons [for the protests], and we’ll always be respectful of those.”