SANTA CLARA — 49ers safety Eric Reid believes any potential amendment to NFL rules that would require players to stand for the national anthem would have to be negotiated with the players association.
NFL owners are reportedly planning to discuss the issue at their scheduled fall meeting next week. At present, the league’s policy only encourages players to stand for the anthem.
“As far as I know, that would have to be something that’s collectively bargained,” Reid said Wednesday when asked about a potential vote by the owners. “I’m not sure if they can do that, but I guess we’ll find out soon.”
As first reported by ESPN on Tuesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to all 32 teams saying in part that, “Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem. It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us.
“We also care deeply about our players and respect their opinions and concerns about critical social issues. The controversy over the Anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues. We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players.”
Some NFL owners showed solidarity with players in one form or another the weekend of Sept. 24, two days after explosive comments by President Donald Trump, who used inflammatory language and said owners should fire players who do not stand for the anthem.
Reid said he’s had discussions with 49ers owner Jed York “and he’s expressed very clearly that that he wants to support us, that he’s not going to force us to do anything.
“Speaking for our team, that’s what he’s told me explicitly.”
Reid did not know if York had told other 49ers players the same thing. Pressure has escalated from the White House and Trump, who tweeted Wednesday, “It is about time that Roger Goodell of the NFL is finally demanding that all players STAND for our great National Anthem-RESPECT OUR COUNTRY”
A league spokesman told NFL.com on Wednesday that it has no plans to mandate players stand for the national anthem, adding that “commentary this morning about the Commissioner’s position on the Anthem is not accurate. The NFL is doing the hard work of trying to move from protest to progress, working to bring people together.”
Reid has consistently said his and the actions of other NFL players’ are not meant to disrespect the anthem, the flag or the U.S. military, but feel that the message has been distorted.
“I was hoping that it wasn’t” going to shift the tone of the conversation, Reid said, “but I guess, they said it was going to be a one-week thing when they did it. I expected it.”
The emotionally charged issue has been brewing for more than a year since ormer 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat down for the national anthem in a preseason game last August to raise awareness of police brutality and racial injustice.
The following week, Kaepernick was joined by Reid and Eli Harold as all three players took a knee during the anthem. Reid was deeply affected by the shooting death of Alton Sterling by police in his hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Before Sunday’s game against the Colts in Indianapolis, 23 players knelt on the 49ers sideline while all the Colts players stood and locked arms during the anthem. That prompted Vice President Mike Pence to quickly leave Sunday’s game, which Reid dismissed as a publicity stunt.
“I think we are reaching people, and there’s another handful of people who chose not to hear us. Those people, you can’t change their mind — they’ll never listen to you, you’ll never win with them,” Reid told the San Jose Mercury News after the 49ers’ 26-23 overtime loss, in which he didn’t play because of a PCL injury.
“We just need to keep the conversation going. When an opportunity presents itself to elect somebody into office at the state and national level, then we have to take advantage of those opportunities and put people in place who are going to do what we need done to fix these issues.”
The week before the game against the Colts, the 49ers put forth a new demonstration in which 30 players knelt and others stood behind them with hands on the shoulders of those kneeling. The 49ers ownership has supported players’ rights to protest since last season.