NFL owners who are worried that signing Colin Kaepernick will cause them to lose fans should walk with Kaepernick down the street.
This, according to 49ers safety Eric Reid, who did so twice this year and concluded that adding Kaepernick to the payroll only will boost a franchise’s fan base.
“Literally every couple of steps we took, somebody would come up and tell him how much they respected what he did for the community,” Reid said. “We’d go inside a building and people would come inside, following him to tell him the same thing. There’s a huge, huge amount of support for him in this country.”
There also appears to be enduring support of Kaepernick and his crusade for social justice among players.
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Though Lynch didn’t speak after the Raiders’ preseason game, Bennett said he was stirred by the recent violence in Charlottesville, Va., and that he wanted to continue to push the message that things aren’t fair for minority groups in this country.
“First of all I want to make sure people understand I love the military – my father was in the military,” Bennett said after Seattle’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers. “I love hot dogs like any other American. I love football like any other American. But I don’t love segregation, I don’t love riots, I don’t love oppression.”
Reid said he, too, was upset over the clashes in Virginia between white supremacists and counter protestors that left a 32-year-old woman dead and 19 injured when a car was driven into a crowd Saturday.
But he said neither that incident, nor Bennett’s and Lynch’s stance, will change his decision to stand during the national anthem this season. He, Kaepernick and linebacker Eli Harold knelt together during the anthem for most of the 2016 season to bring attention to racism, especially issues involving police brutality.
Harold also has said he will stand. And Kaepernick has indicated, through proxies, that he will not continue his flag protest, although that hasn’t helped him land a job.
Both the Seahawks and Baltimore Ravens have shown some interest in signing the free agent but have brought on other passers instead. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti last month acknowledged being concerned about a backlash from fans if they signed Kaepernick.
“Your opinions matter to us,” he said at a fan forum at the team’s stadium. “We’re very sensitive to it, and we’re monitoring it, and we’re … trying to figure out what’s the right tact. So pray for us.”
Last week, J.D. Power released a report that identified national anthem protests as the top reason NFL ratings and game attendance dipped last season.
During Friday’s anthem ceremony in Kansas City, all of the 49ers stood during “The Star-Spangled Banner” with more than half the squad covering their hearts with their hands.
Still, Reid said he was happy to see other NFL players carry forth the protest Kaepernick began a year ago.
Reid helped convince the quarterback to kneel instead of sit during the anthem because he thought it would be more respectful. He said the protest always was designed to bring attention to social injustice, not to disparage the military.
“For me, the anthem thing went so sideways,” he said. “It kills me that it went the way it went. Because that’s not how we intended it to be.”
Reid has attended two of Kaepernick’s “Know Your Rights” workshops, in Chicago and New York, that are designed to give young people advice on education, finances, and health and fitness. Kaepernick also has donated $700,000 to groups that address racial inequality with another $300,000 going out over the next three months.
Reid said he spoke to Kaepernick on Sunday following the weekend violence. His message, Reid said, was the same as Bennett’s: Keep speaking up.
“He said it’s becoming more apparent for people to see the issues we’re talking about,” Reid said. “Especially the way that it happened in Charlottesville. So we’re just hopeful that we keep talking about it (and) we don’t let it go away.
“Because a lot of people just want things to blow over. ‘Oh, it’s an isolated incident,’ he said. “But it happens every day. And if we keep talking about it, hopefully we can make a change. We need to stop being ‘hopeful.’ It needs to happen. It needs to happen now.”