San Francisco 49ers

49ers John Lynch gets second chance to explain flag stance, regrets using ‘divisive’

San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch during an NFL football press conference Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, in Santa Clara, Calif.
San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch during an NFL football press conference Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, in Santa Clara, Calif. AP

John Lynch got a second chance to discuss his view of anthem protests on Friday morning.

His Wednesday comments on the subject drew criticism after he said the protests can be “divisive” and that he’d always seen the national anthem, and the game of football, as a way to bring disparate groups of people together.

Speaking on KNBR radio, Lynch said he regretted the word divisive.

“If I could take one thing back, I would have changed that word,” he said. “Because of the negative connotation. But I was really trying to make the point that our game should be a beacon for what can be.”

Host Brian Murphy noted a well-circulated picture of Eagles pass rusher Chris Long, who is white, putting his arm around teammate Malcolm Jenkins during the anthem Thursday. Jenkins has been among the most prominent players who protested during the anthem last season and both men have been supportive of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began that movement a year ago.

Although Kaepernick, who remains a free agent, and the other 49ers who knelt during the anthem have said they will stand this year, others around the league have sat or raised a fist during “The Star Spangled Banner” after the racially charged violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend. Long grew up in Charlottesville and played at the University of Virginia, the site of a white supremacist march last week.

“I think it’s a good time for people that look like me to be there for people that are fighting for equality,” Long told reporters after his team’s game.

“I’m glad you brought this up because I’m having, for the last couple of days, a lot of thought, a lot of waking up in the middle of the night thinking about what I said and how people perceive that,” Lynch said Friday. “You know, when I saw that picture of Chris Long and Malcolm Jenkins, I think that’s exactly what I was speaking to and what I think is so great about football, of how I think our society can be and how it should be – of people coming together.”

Lynch continued, saying he was home in San Diego when the violence in Charlottesville was occurring.

“When you’re talking to your 10 year old and you’re trying to explain what’s going on – it’s sad, it’s disgusting, it’s unbelievable that these things still exist,” he said. “So I want to go a step further (and say) not only do I respect, but I understand the motivations of these players that are trying to do something about it. I want to be very clear with that, that’s where my heart is.”

Kyle Shanahan struck a similar tone on Thursday, saying that, like Lynch, he’s always stood during the national anthem.

“For a player, if they see that differently and they want to do something about that, I completely understand their intentions and why,” he said. “Because I think everyone can agree there’s lots of stuff that’s pretty sad to see right now.”

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

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