In response to the country-wide protests following the death of George Floyd, the San Francisco 49ers donated $1 million to local and national organizations that are creating change.
Niners CEO Jed York joined NFL Network's NFL NOW on Monday and said he hopes the club can use its platform to help facilitate cultural change.
"The statement I made was easy, any time you see heinous acts, you have to be able to call them out," he said. "But in terms of the pledge, I think it's very important that actions and words need to go together if you're going to facilitate change in America and that's what we wanted to do. We wanted to make sure that we were helping people that are on the front lines fighting racial inequality in this country do their work in a slightly better way today than what they could yesterday and I think that's why we're trying to work with the Players Coalition and groups like that that are trying to build better relations between police officers and the communities that they serve; working on criminal justice reform and trying to advance educational and economic situations for minorities in this country. I think that's the step forward for us right now and I think that's what we need to focus on."
York noted that former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's peaceful protests during the national anthem sought to spur change. York hopes the country can build on that now and do more to fight towards equality.
"I think we started some social justice work and using that term when Colin started his protests," he said. "I think we'd always been working in this area, I think it was clear to label it social justice.
"I think the piece that we missed in 2016 and it's a fairly simple piece, I don't know that anybody actually addressed what the issue was and we're trying to fight racism in this country. I think that's what we need to clearly call out and you can't defeat something if you don't actually admit that that's what you're fighting."
The rest of Jed York's interview with Jim Trotter on NFL Network:
What do you think the roles of owners are in this fight?
"I can't speak for everybody else, but I know for us, we've got millions of fans. We have people that support us when we go to the Super Bowl last year or when we had two wins the year before. We have the opportunity with our platform to help our 49ers family. Our players are predominately black. They see the issues that are now on the news in a much different way than what I saw them as a kid growing up and what a lot of white America sees. I think we need to first and foremost help our 49ers family feel comfortable and safe, but when we look at the community at large, I do believe that we have an obligation to serve our community and be a beacon of hope and of light and really work together with people that can effectuate change.
You mentioned Kap and four years ago, you guys as an organization publicly stood by his right to peacefully demonstrate and you even donated a million dollars to local groups to fight against social injustice. How does today feel different than four years ago?
"There's never a straight path to success. I think Colin reignited the athlete's voice which had been missing for a long time, you know from the '68 Olympics and Muhammad Ali and folks that spoke about these things in the '60s and '70s, Kap reignited that. I think we took some positive steps, but we've not defeated the issue. We haven't achieved the goals that we want to achieve. And that's a thing where you see that you've made some progress, but it's frustrating that you have to take a step backward in order to move forward and that's a thing that we need to correct today. We need to continue the work that Colin drew attention to four years ago in 2016 and we need to continue to let our players, first and foremost, know that they have a voice to be able to speak out, but we have to help them effectuate that change and get to a place where we have a better America."
Everyone's searching for answers of how do we address this, how do we correct this? I'm wondering if you have any thoughts on actionable plans that can be taken to address this issue?
"I mean, again, I think if you're going to address the issue, you first and foremost have to say what the issue is. And if you don't say what the issue is, it's really, really hard to fight an enemy that's not named. You have to name that enemy and it's racism. We need to stamp out racism in our country. And in order to do that you have to help minorities and people that have been adversely affected for generations in this country, generally based off the color of your skin. Not always, but almost always that is the case. And you need to help those folks - again whether it's criminal justice or forum and education and economic advancement - you need to have those plans in place. And for me, that's not my expertise and I want to make sure we find the right people on those frontlines to give them not just our balance sheet and our financial support, but lend our brands and lend the millions of people who watch the 49ers and the NFL and other sports teams. Bring attention to these issues and make sure that we can do everything that we can to advance our story forward."
Jed, I appreciate you joining us. It was a significant pledge and statement so thank you.
"Well, there's a lot more to do. And again, I think we started this officially in 2016. And there's so much more that we can do and I hope that other teams will join us and I hope that other members of the community will join us and that we can make a dent in this and hopefully end racism in this country. But there's a lot of work that needs to be done."