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The 49ers Used Their Protest to Call Out “Oppression and Social Injustices”

In their first game since Trump’s comments, a large portion of the team knelt during the national anthem

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals Matt Kartozian/USA Today

The San Francisco 49ers played on Thursday Night Football in Week 3, and so as widespread demonstrations during the national anthem occurred around the NFL that Sunday following President Donald Trump’s comments on the protests, the team associated with Colin Kaepernick, who began the demonstration last year, wasn’t available to make its own.

This week, the 49ers traveled to Arizona to play the Cardinals, and a large contingent of the team knelt before and during the national anthem. It was the most widespread team demonstration of the week through the afternoon games.

As the 49ers remained kneeling across from the Cardinals, who stood for the anthem, boos rained down from the Arizona crowd. Soon after, the 49ers released a statement from “the players, the coaches, ownership, and staff.”

“For more than a year, members of our team have protested the oppression and social injustices still present in our society,” the statement read. “While some may have not 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 to do the same.”

Specifically identifying “oppression” and “social injustices” as reasons for why players knelt is a stark contrast to most NFL teams’ statements on the matter, which deviated from the reason behind Kaepernick’s original protest by using the demonstrations to call for general unity. As The Ringer’s Michael Baumann wrote last week, when Kaepernick decided to protest, his goal, similar to the 49ers statement on the matter, was specific: to protest racial injustices. On Saturday, the 49ers’ Eric Reid—among the first teammates to join Kaepernick in protest last year—called for a very specific type of unity.

“As the majority of us have done throughout our careers, we use our platform as an NFL team, and our right to freedom of expression to speak up for those whose voices is not heard,” the team statement continued.

Aside from the roughly 30 players were involved in the demonstration, GM John Lynch and owner Jed York joined the team on the sideline.