Yesterday was a historic day, not just for the sports world, but for all of us.
In response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, WI, the Milwaukee Bucks boycotted their NBA playoff Game 5 against the Orlando Magic. Soon after, the rest of the day’s NBA playoffs games, as well as several Major League Baseball games, WNBA playoff games and others, were postponed, as players boycotted social injustice.
Although players have decided to resume the playoffs, today’s NBA games are postponed and other sports have followed suit. Multiple NFL teams also postponed practice today.
The San Francisco 49ers held a walk through, but head coach Kyle Shanahan supports his players in whatever they decide to do around issues of social injustice.
“I usually follow the lead of our players on that,” said Shanahan on a Zoom call with the media. “…[I]f they wanted to not have practice today, we definitely would have done that. No one brought that to my attention and I opened it up to all of them and that wasn’t what they wanted to do. Our dialogue in here is, I mean, I do think we have a pretty authentic place…It’s stuff that lots of our players have been dealing with their entire life, that people have been dealing with for hundreds of years. Now that there’s cameras and stuff out there, people see it a lot more which is why I truly believe it will eventually change. It’s not happening fast enough, obviously.”
Last week, at the start his media availability, defensive lineman Arik Armstead talked about the rise of hate crimes in this country. He said that he will bring awareness to a different social issue with every media session.
“…I want to shed some light on some things that are important to me, and I think we should all educate ourselves…” Armstead said. “That’s my goal of this, is to educate and create dialogue and start conversation.”
The 49ers have a YouTube series called “Subject to Change” where the players have the opportunity to discuss social issues that are affecting them and the world.
Dialogue, educating and listening are ways to create change, and athletes using their platforms to do so is powerful.
“I think it’s past due time for them to arrest Breonna Taylor’s killers, but that hasn’t happened,” 49ers’ cornerback Richard Sherman said last week. “It’s time for everybody to continue to speak up, continue to put pressure on things they see as wrong. There’s been a lot of turning a blind eye in this country, especially to wrongdoings and inequalities, and I think that needs to stop. I think that the more we keep putting pressure, the more we highlight the terrible things that are going on, and the more we punish the people that are doing wrong, the better it will be. I think these are wild times, and I think that the more we can speak up, the more we can shed light on it, the more we can do, the better the world will be for our kids.”
In June, the 49ers announced that the organization will donate $1 million to organizations in the Bay Area and around the country that are working to create change.
Over the last several weeks, the 49ers have involved numerous players in the review and selection process of the organizations who will be awarded grants.
The 49ers have long been an organization that is committed to supporting and helping the community, and that includes supporting its players.
“…If there’s anything someone wants to do, I feel we’re in a place where that guy is not going to hesitate at all to bring it up to me or bring it up to the leaders on the team or bring it up to [general manager John] Lynch or bring it up to [CEO] Jed [York],” Shanahan. There’s really no door in this building that’s not open and I’d be extremely surprised if any of our players didn’t understand that.”
Running back Raheem Mostert echoed that the players do know that and understands the responsibility and opportunity he and his teammates have to make a statement.
“…[I]f you just look at what’s going on with the NBA and now the NHL, they just postpone their Thursday playoff games, so, that way they can get a grasp on understanding the different issues that come outside of the sport,” Mostert said. “That’s the same thing that we’re thinking about, we’re talking about…there could be a plan, I’m not promising anything, but there could be a plan as far as you know, just standing up and doing what’s right because at the end of the day, that’s all that matters. Human life is the most important thing and we have to value that.”
In terms of a plan as a team, Shanahan points to the number of players who are working to create change individually and looks to the season as a potential time to do something together.
“…[W]with what did happen here over the last week, it definitely brings it up more,” Shanahan said. “I know we talked about it a little bit on the field last night, but it was more to open the platform again to guys like, hey, at any time, we can do whatever people want. This was about 24 hours ago I did this and no one’s brought anything to my attention yet, but I think guys do a lot of stuff. I’m sure we will do something when the season starts, I’m just guessing, but I think our guys are pretty proud of how they handle stuff on a day-to-day basis. Some guys do it in the community. Some guys are out there more. Some guys, just how they try to live their life and how they try to speak to other people, treat other people. How they decide to raise their kids and how they decide what type of friends and stuff they want to have. That’s, to me, one of the strongest things you can do, but if anything does come up, we’ll be excited to do it.”