Mailbag: Has Protest Brought 49ers Locker Room Closer? - NBC Bay Area

Mailbag: Has Protest Brought 49ers Locker Room Closer?

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    Mailbag: Has Protest Brought 49ers Locker Room Closer?
    Matt Maiocco
    Mailbag: Has protest brought 49ers locker room closer?

    The 49ers' locker room has been an interesting place the past two weeks since Colin Kaepernick added an explanation to his protest, which had been silent through the first three exhibition games.

    The team tried to focus on its preparations to face the Los Angeles Rams in the season opener on Monday night at Levi's Stadium. But this edition of 49ers Mailbag delves into three topics about off-field issues:

    Has Kap's protest brought the locker room together? Made a difference in his interactions with teammates? (‏@Sh3ldonStau4)
    I certainly do not believe everybody in the locker room is completely comfortable with teammates sitting or kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. 

    But there appears to be less strain on the locker room dynamic than could have been expected, especially because it was Colin Kaepernick who initiated the national dialogue on the subject. Many inside the organization observed that Kaepernick closed himself off to teammates and did not have a lot of interaction inside the locker room.

    Kaepernick, who opens the season as the backup quarterback, appears more approachable, upbeat and talkative these days.

    "There's been a lot of open conversations, a lot more conversations going on in general," Kaepernick said. "And I think ultimately this team and this locker room have gotten a lot closer because of the gaining of understanding of individuals."

    [RELATED: 49ers' Reid received support as protest continues]

    Safety Eric Reid joined Kaepernick in taking a knee in the 49ers' finale exhibition game. Reid said he will continue to take a knee until he sees acceptable change in reducing social inequalities. Although he has talked to many teammates about the protest, he is not sure if others will join the protest.

    "Since this has started, I've had conversations with him (Kaepernick) on a deeper level than I've ever had," Reid said. "He's told me he's had that same feeling with a number of guys."

    Said coach Chip Kelly, "I think our team did a great job with it. We recognize and respect Kap's decision and his constitutional rights to do what he's doing and it sounds like it's been a positive change. There's been a lot of positive things that have come out of it."

    It's difficult to say, for sure, this controversy had been a positive development for unity within the locker room. It appears that way, but just because nobody has said anything publicly or not for attribution does not mean there are no players with negative feelings on the subject of the protest.

    While everyone seems to be in agreement on certain aspects of Kaepernick's message, there's no way 53 players are thinking completely alike. But, up to this point, there has been no evidence the situation has impacted the locker room in a negative way.

    Are the 49ers wearing their black jerseys on Monday night? (@teamlepe)
    When I received this question on Twitter on Friday, I responded: "No, I believe those will be worn for the Thursday game, Oct. 6, against the Cardinals."

    It was not a topic I discussed with 49ers president Al Guido before, during or after we recorded the first "49ers Insider" podcast. But shortly after I answered the question, Guido responded on Twitter with confirmation: "That is correct, Matt."

    [LISTEN: The 49ers Insider Podcast: President Al Guido]

    So there you have it. It's official. The 49ers' so-called "color rush" uniform for the Thursday game against the Arizona Cardinals will be black. On Monday, when the 49ers open the regular season against the Los Angeles Rams at Levi's Stadium, the 49ers wear their traditional red home jerseys.

    Any word on team captains and the possibility of captain patches? (@DannyWrightShow)
    Chip Kelly said the team has "squad leaders" at every position group. This is the group that initiated the players-only meeting to discuss Kaepernick's protest the day after he made it be known he was staging his protest during the national anthem.

    The 49ers will not have the standard captains who will serve in those capacities for the entire season. A different set of "captains" will represent the team at midfield before games. Said Kelly, "We'll have game captains as the season goes along."