San Francisco 49ers

Chip Kelly on players and anthem: ‘I’m really proud of how they’ve handled things’

49ers Eric Reid says Kaepernick points to issues 'bigger than football'

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Eric Reid, who knelt next to quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the national anthem before the 49ers played the San Diego Chargers on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, offered more support for Kaepernick after the game. Also
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San Francisco 49ers cornerback Eric Reid, who knelt next to quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the national anthem before the 49ers played the San Diego Chargers on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, offered more support for Kaepernick after the game. Also

SAN DIEGO -- After Colin Kaepernick revealed he would not stand during the national anthem, there were plenty of predictions about how his actions would fracture the 49ers locker room.

If anything, players said they are closer now than they were a week ago. Kaepernick agreed.

"I've seen my team grow a lot this week," he said after Thursday's game. "And it is an open discussion. Because I think in a lot of cases, there's barriers up because, 'You don't know my background, I don't know yours' And we just assume things based on race, based on where you're from, based on what I heard your past is. And we can't do that. We have to have these conversations, we have to understand each other better, and ultimately that brings us closer together, which I've seen with my team."

Kaepernick hasn't been ostracized in the locker room. In fact, he was joined in his protest by safety Eric Reid and during the game acted, and was treated, like any other player on the sideline. After he led a 16-play scoring drive to open the game, he received back thwacks and congratulations from players and coaches.

Following a touchdown run by Christian Ponder in the four quarter, he was one of the first players to greet Ponder on the sideline.

Kaepernick invited former Green Beret Nate Boyer to the game and then spent more than an hour with Boyer and Reid coming up with a more respectful way to register protest. Kaepernick and Reid decided to kneel during the singing of the anthem instead of sitting, which Kaepernick had done the three previous games.

Given the time he spent with Boyer and Reid, how can his stance not distract him from playing football, he was asked?

"My day is spent with my teammates in meetings, at practice," he said. "I spend 10, 11, 12 hours a day on football. This is something that we’re doing in our personal lives as far as taking a stand and trying to fight for people’s rights."

Chip Kelly agreed that he had observed no split or divisiveness in the 49ers locker room. The 49ers had a team meeting on Sunday at which leaders like NaVorro Bowman, Antoine Bethea and Joe Staley took charge.

"It is a very thoughtful group and I'm proud of them," Kelly said. "I'm really proud of how they’ve handled things. And if my job is to hand it off to them and let them handle it, I think they have done a really good job of that.”

San Francisco 49ers quarterback continued his protest, kneeling during the playing of the national anthem on Thursday night before the final pre-season game between the San Diego Chargers and San Francisco 49ers of what he deems are wrongdoings ag

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

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