After the racially charged events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month, San Francisco 49ers strong safety Eric Reid said he still did not plan to resume kneeling during the national anthem in protest of racial inequality in the United States.
Reid apparently had a change of heart.
Before the 49ers’ third preseason game Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings, the NBC telecast showed Reid kneeling surrounded by teammates and broadcaster Al Michaels noted that Reid had done so during the national anthem.
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It’s the first time this preseason that a 49er has knelt during the anthem after Reid, Harold and quarterback Colin Kaepernick did it for the entire 2016 season.
Later, during the game, Reid made a big hit on Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen to stop him 2 yards short on third down. As a celebration, Reid ran forward and kissed his biceps, which is Kaepernick’s signature touchdown celebration.
Reid first began kneeling with Kaepernick before the team’s final preseason game last year in San Diego. But he said repeatedly in the offseason that he would refrain from the anthem protest this season and reiterated recently that he had other ideas this year.
“I think, for me, the anthem thing went so sideways. It kills me that it went the way it went because that’s not how we intended it to be,” Reid said on Aug. 15. “You guys know what we were trying to get accomplished with that.
“But I think, for me personally, [I’ll] just keep talking about it, whether that’s social media or you guys talking to me or whatever events I can make it out to during the season, just to keep raising awareness on different topics to hopefully make that change that we’re talking about.”
In the days after Reid made those statements, Niners coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch said that no player had approached them about taking part in a protest during the anthem.
Both said they understood the reason for such protests with Shanahan saying he would like a player planning to take part to let him know and discuss it with him in advance.
Lynch had initially said such protests could be divisive but later in the week said he regretted using that word and again said he respects and understands the protests.
Reid has kept in close contact with Kaepernick throughout the offseason and has kept tabs on Kaepernick’s on-going job pursuits. He also attended Kaepernick’s “Know Your Rights” camps in Chicago and New York.
“I think it’s becoming more apparent for people to see the issues that we’re talking about, especially in the way it happened in Charlottesville,” Reid said. “We’re just hopeful that if we keep talking about it, we don’t let it go away because a lot of people just want things to blow over like, ‘Oh, that’s an isolated incident.’ But it happens every day.
“If we keep talking about it, hopefully we can make this change. It needs to stop being ‘hopefully.’ It needs to happen. It needs to happen now.”