It has been two weeks since 49ers safety Eric Reid joined teammate Colin Kaepernick in taking a knee in protest during the national anthem. The next step, Reid said, is to focus on the issues being raised in the protests, not the methods of the protests.
Reid, speaking on the CSN Bay Area's "49ers Insider Podcast," said he and some other players spoke Thursday with 49ers CEO Jed York on that very topic.
"I spoke to Jed a little bit earlier today, trying to figure out a way to move forward and just shift the conversation from what and how and how many people are protesting to what are we doing to make this change that we're talking about," Reid said. "So he wants to help with that. And he wants to get people together to move forward. I'm so grateful that he cares enough to do that. It just means a lot."
The 49ers last week pledged $1 million from the organization's charitable arm, the 49ers Foundation, to two Bay Area charities that work against social inequality. The first week of games saw several players around the league carry out protests similar to what Kaepernick and Reid initiated.
"I think it's time that the conversation changes to how we proceed with making these issues better," Reid said.
He said it all begins with dialogue that brings together the community and law enforcement.
"We know – or I know – that I see it one way being a civilian and an officer might see it a different way being an officer," Reid said. "So how can we come together to resolve these issues? And hopefully that can turn into some actual change, whether that's legislation. We just need to start working toward that direction and stop talking about who protested this week and who did this during the anthem this week. I think it's time to move forward with how to make a change."
Reid discussed a number of different topics during his appearance on the podcast, including:
--Reid said he has seen a big difference in Kaepernick this season as he stepped forward to speak on the issues of social injustice for minorities in America and, as he describes it, "police brutality."
"From last year to this year, I've seen a ton of growth in Colin," Reid said. "I think his inner self has come out. He's passionate about what's happening in this country and he's passionate about wanting to make a change. And I've talked to him on a much deeper level than I ever have. It used to be just about working on football. And that's how it is with a lot of guys.
"This is our job. People think it's a distraction when it's actually not. It has brought us closer together and we can talk about real life. You can form a relationship on a different level with your teammate because you're talking about real issues that you go through on a day-to-day basis or something that happened to you as you grew up. I think he's definitely grown on the inside and found who he is."
--Reid would not have joined Kaepernick's protest if Kaepernick remained adamant about sitting on the bench during the playing of the national anthem, he said.
"There are two sides to this," Reid said. "There's speaking and there's listening. I'm empathetic to the people who feel strongly about the anthem and the flag because they give their lives to protecting our country. So I did not feel comfortable sitting down. I feel it would be more respectful to those people that feel that strongly about the anthem and the flag to take a knee. I felt that was a better route to go."
--Reid said he had not spoken to Kaepernick on the subject until after the players-only meeting of Sunday, Aug. 28, after Kaepernick's protest came to light and he explained himself in front of his teammates.
"As you can imagine, a lot of people were wondering, ‘What's going on?'" Reid said. "He spoke and you could hear it in his voice that it was thought out.
"He believes in what he's doing. That's when I approached him and said, ‘Hey, look, I support and believe in what you're talking about because it is true, there are these issues, and I want to know if there's a way that I can support you moving forward because you're not alone in this.'"
--Reid said he believes law enforcement is a noble profession, and he said he also believes the vast majority of police officers do commendable jobs.
"I'd venture to say 99 percent of police officers are great people," he said. "They protect and serve. They protect and serve my family. But there's a one percent that go rogue and are outside of their lines of protecting and serving. They commit crimes.
"Because they haven't been tried or convicted or served jail time, it has created a rift between the community and law enforcement. I don't think people, primary the African-American community, trust the legal system when it comes to officers. Any time something happens, what's the first thing we see? The body camera malfunctioned or the dash camera malfunctioned. It's just hard to trust a system that doesn't seem like it comes through when I feel like we should hold our police officers to a higher standard."
--Reid said the issue is more prevalent in Louisiana, where he was born, raised and attended college. And before he came to the NFL in 2013 as a first-round draft pick, he was not making big money and he was afforded no special privileges.
"I don't experience the same things here in California that I do in Louisiana," he said. "But, again, I'm speaking for other people that don't have the platform to speak for themselves."
--Reid said the focus on social change has not distracted him from his job of playing free safety for the 49ers.
"I think that's something else that people don't think that other people are capable of doing -- you make a statement on one issue, but you can't switch and go to something else," Reid said. "It's obviously my job to play football. I put a lot of time and effort into being the best football player I can be. But I also put a lot of time and effort into being the best father, the best husband, the best follower of Christ that I can be. And so just because I put a tweet out about social issues doesn't mean that I don't watch film, either."
--Reid has more responsibilities within defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil's system. On Wednesday, O'Neil told reporters he expects Reid to line up in a lot of different positions.
"We'll go through this season and Eric Reid, when it's all said and done, will play probably both safety spots, nickel, he'll play some dime backer, he'll play some defensive end," O'Neil told reporters.
After hearing O'Neil's comment, Reid said he approached his coach for some clarification about the possibility of playing defensive end.
"I talked to him after that. I was like, ‘What are you talking about?'" Reid said. "And he was like, ‘Hey, I think we might have something with you at that spot.' And I said, ‘If you think I can do it, I'm willing to try.' So we'll just have to see how it works in practice."