Niners players stand, kneel during national anthem

  • By Around The NFL staff
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Roughly half of San Francisco 49ers took a knee during the national anthem prior to Sunday's road game against the Arizona Cardinals.

About half of the 49ers players took a knee and the other half stood behind them -- all with their hands over their hearts -- on the sideline as "The Star-Spangled Banner" was performed at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Just before the anthem started, the 49ers released the following statement on behalf of its players, coaches, ownership and staff:

At its purest level, football is a unifier of people from all walks of life, different socio-economic backgrounds, every corner of this country and around the world. As players, coaches, ownership and staff, we are privileged to work in an environment that is a tremendous example of how people can come together for a common goal. We not only put our differences aside, but we also use them to achieve that common goal by challenging each other to be better -- both in our professional and personal lives. For more than a year, members of our team have protested the oppression and social injustices still present in our society. While some may not have 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 do the same. Our demonstration is simply a representation of how we hope our country can also come together by putting differences aside and solving its problems.

As the majority of us have done throughout our careers, we use our platform as members of a NFL team, and our right to freedom of expression, to speak up for those whose voice is not heard. It is important that we continue to emphasize that despite our different backgrounds and beliefs, we still love each other and are truly a brotherhood. Our gesture today was an intentional effort to demonstrate that. Make no mistake, we love this great country and have tremendous respect for our military and veterans who have sacrificed so much for our right to express ourselves freely. We passionately want what is best for this country and all its citizens.

On behalf of the San Francisco 49ers organization, we urge our fellow citizens to embrace your differences, find strength in them, and come together for the good of all.

Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the first player to take a knee during the anthem last year when he began his protests against the treatment of minorities in the United States. Eric Reid, who joined him in his protests throughout the 2016 season, recently wrote an op-ed in The New York Times explaining why he and Kaepernick decided to protest during the anthem.

The 49ers weren't the only team with players taking a knee during the national anthem on Sunday. Dolphins teammates Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas and Julius Thomas kneeled during the anthem and Saints and Ravens players kneeled before the anthem began. Two members of the Detroit Lions kneeled.

Most players and teams, however, stood during the anthem. The Pittsburgh Steelers, who chose not to come out onto the field during the national anthem prior to last week's game against the Chicago Bears, stood during the anthem before Sunday's game.

Players around the NFL have taken part in protests and displays of team unity over the past two weeks of the NFL season. The actions have come following comments made by President Trump last month that team owners should fire players who do not stand during the national anthem. The NFL, NFL Players Association and team owners issued responses to Trump's comments last week.