MINNEAPOLIS — Safety Eric Reid explained his reason for kneeling in protest during the national anthem on Sunday night in a Q&A with reporters after the 49ers’ exhibition game against the Minnesota Vikings:
Q: You mentioned in the past you weren’t going to protest this season. What changed?
Reid: “I just had a change of heart. A lot of thinking. A lot of praying. Talking to Colin (Kaepernick). When we started last year, if you recall, we said our goal was to raise awareness and shed light on the issues that were happening in our country. I think we accomplished that goal. What I was upset about was the narrative, the false narrative, that were being told about us, people saying that we’re un-American, that we’re against police entirely and the military. That just wasn’t true. At first I thought that was a small sacrifice to pay to get the word out and raise awareness. I settled with thinking raising that awareness was victory.
"Then fast forward to Charlottesville and the country sees what an un- American protest really looks like. That’s when I had my change of heart. Because what Colin, Eli and I did was a peaceful protest fueled by faith in God to help make our country a better place. I feel I needed to regain control of that narrative and not let people say that what we’re doing is un-American, because it’s not. It’s completely American. We’re doing it because we want equality for everybody. We want our country to be a better place. So that’s why I decided to resume the protest.”
Q: Do other teammates express to you that they want to join you?
Reid: “A lot of guys said they wanted to show support. A lot of guys were standing with me, putting their hand on my shoulder, and it means a lot. They want to be involved. The anthem means a lot of things to different people. Some guys don’t feel comfortable kneeling, even though I’ve said a million and one times it’s not about being against the military. If that’s how they feel, that’s completely fine. I would never pressure anybody to take a knee. That’s just my way of doing it. But it means a lot they want to show support by standing with me.”
Q: Did you tell Kaepernick you were going to protest again?
Reid: “Yeah, I talked to Colin a couple times. We stay in touch, constantly. So I did tell him.”
Q: Will you protest throughout the season?
Reid: “I do plan on that, yes.”
Q: You didn’t talk to Kyle Shanahan, but he said you talked to the public relations staff. What plans do you have in expressing to the organization why you’re doing this?
Reid: “Well I had a talk with (49ers CEO Jed York) last year and he told me how he felt about the situation, that he believes it’s my right to do so and he wasn’t going to say anything to make me feel like I need to stop doing it. I think that’s awesome that he just has good heart and allows me to do it.”
Q: On Marquise Goodwin’s support because he traveled to Africa this offseason with Kaepenrick?
Reid: “I think so. That trip they took to Africa, Marquise has told me it was very impactful for him. It is really hard to describe the feeling being African-American and take a trip to Africa the first time. My wife was born in South Africa and I remember when I went there the first time just the feeling I felt, it felt like home and it felt good to be there. So I can’t speak for him but I can imagine that trip helped him with that decision today.”
Q: Is part of this, you see people protesting around the league and you feel you need to finish what you started?
Reid: “It’s kind of validation in the sense that people really see what we were talking about last year is real. I don’t think anybody doubted it was real. But it just means more people want to be involved and speak up about the issues that we have in our country.”
Q: As someone who is scheduled to be a free agent next year, did you think about how other teams might view this?
Reid: “I have. This has been fueled by my faith in God. That’s the only reason I do it. You can’t serve God and money. So if I’m not on the team next year, I’ll be at home unhappy that I’m not on the team, but I’ll be satisfied knowing that I did what I believed was right, and that’s being a voice for the voiceless and standing up for the oppressed.”
Q: Were you honoring Kaepernick with a kiss of his biceps after making a tackle?
Reid: “I did it last week and I don’t think anybody noticed. It’s just a shout-out to my brother. I miss him and hopefully I’ll see him on the field one day.”
Q: Who had their hand on his back during the anthem beside Marquise Goodwin and Eli harold?
Reid: “There were a couple of guys. I think Dontae (Johnson). I’d have to look at a picture. But I do feel there were a bunch of people supporting me, so it felt good.”