John Lynch says anthem protests ‘divisive,’ respects players’ reasons

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — While every member of the 49ers stood for the national anthem before last week’s preseason opener, that didn’t prevent other players around the league from continuing the silent protest that originated in the San Francisco Bay Area a year ago.

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett and Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat during the anthem before their respective preseason openers, and Bennett later confirmed he sat in protest. Lynch has yet to comment on sitting.

On Wednesday, Niners general manager John Lynch was asked if he supports, tolerates and/or has concerns about those silent anthem protests.

“We had a great deal the other day where we had four chairs up here, and there was Steve Young and Jerry Rice,” John Lynch said. “And they talked about ‘The 49er Way.’ And I always thought that’s one of the great things about this league. As a matter of fact, I think it’s a great beacon for the rest of culture, in terms of the way it should be. You strive for a common goal, and you have unity.

“And I think this game brings people together. So I think personally when I see that, I think that’s divisive. And I understand guys see things and they’re not happy. They have that right. And I think we’ll always respect people’s rights. That doesn’t mean I believe that. I believe this game should be celebrated for what it is. I think [it’s] a tremendous unifier for our country and for the way things should be.”

Kaepernick is a free agent after opting out of his contract in March, whereas Reid and Harold remain with the Niners. Reid and Harold have said they intend to stand for the national anthem this season, while Kaepernick is still searching for a roster spot.

Asked if he would feel the need to talk to any 49ers who might decide to protest this season, Lynch said he would.

“I think we’ll always communicate,” Lynch said. “We think overcommunicating is a good thing. We haven’t faced that situation. If we do, we’ll communicate.”