John Lynch Calls Sideline Protests 'Divisive,' Talks Free Speech

Alec NathanFeatured ColumnistAugust 16, 2017

San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch during the NFL team's football training camp Friday, July 28, 2017, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch said Wednesday he believes football can be a "tremendous unifier" for the country and that pregame protests are "divisive."

"That's divisive," Lynch said of players who sit or kneel during the national anthem, per the Mercury News' Cam Inman. "I understand guys see things and they’re not happy. They have that right. We'll always respect people's rights. That doesn't mean I believe that. I believe this should actually be celebrated for what it is, a tremendous unifier for our country and the way things should be."

Lynch's full remarks can be heard below, courtesy of Inman: 

Colin Kaepernick drew attention to the 49ers last season for initiating a silent protest during the national anthem as a statement against social injustice and police brutality, and he was joined in some capacity by a handful of teammates—several of whom are still on the roster. 

While Kaepernick is still looking for work, safety Eric Reid and linebacker Eli Haroldboth of whom knelt for the anthem—remain key members of the 49ers defense. 

Cornerbacks Rashard Robinson and Keith Reaser, as well as safety Jaquiski Tartt, also took a stance in 2016 when they raised their fists during the anthem. 

Elsewhere in the NFC West, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett told reporters Sunday he plans to use the anthem as a platform for a season-long protest because he wants "to see people have the equality that they deserve," according to the Seattle Times' Bob Condotta.