Kyle Shanahan is following the lead of his players. Across professional sports, several leagues have postponed games as players protest the recent Jacob Blake shooting. Additionally, nine NFL teams opted not to practice or scrimmage on Thursday in light of the recent events.
The 49ers, in fact, forwent Thursday's scheduled practice for a team walkthrough instead. The decision to adjust the session was not influenced by the recent protests. Alternatively, the change was due to the health and preservation of the players. However, Shanahan looked to his team when deciding whether or not to proceed with the day's practices.
"I usually follow the lead of our players on that," Shanahan said on Thursday. "If they wanted to not practice today, we definitely would have done that. But no one brought that to my attention, and I opened it up to all of them and it wasn't what they wanted to do. I do think we have a pretty authentic place. We've discussed a ton over the offseason, especially the George Floyd stuff when that happened. It's stuff that lots of our players have been dealing with their entire lives and people have been dealing with for hundreds of years. So now that there are cameras and stuff out there, people see it a lot more which is why I truly believe it'll eventually change. It's not happening fast enough, obviously."
Shanahan and John Lynch preach the importance of building a culture in San Francisco. Even beyond the field, that culture whittles down to players, coaches and staff having the opportunity to have open and honest dialogue with one another. In his fifth season in San Francisco, running back Raheem Mostert commended the opportunity for constructive internal discussions and echoed Shanahan's sentiment around the locker room.
"It's nice that we have an organization like the 49ers… who let guys talk and be free and express themselves," Mostert said. "Kyle brought it up yesterday after a very tough practice – it was by far one of our best practices – but he let us know, 'hey look, despite what's going on outside of what we're doing, there's still things that we need to talk about and I'm going to leave it up to you guys if you want to talk about it and you know my door is always open, John's door and even (49ers CEO) Jed's (York) door is always open to talk about those different types of (social) justice issues.'
"It was nice to have Kyle say those things. He's been saying that even with the George Floyd (murder) back in the offseason. Throughout Zoom and all those meetings, he let everyone know that we're all on the same page and if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to hit him up or talk with your teammates. We're all family and that's what they try to implement here, and you can actually tell."
Although the team used training camp as a healthy distraction from many of the discernible social issues, the 49ers plan to continue discussions on ways to individually and collectively take action. Whether it's the decision to take a day off of practice or collectively find a way to help support and spread awareness of social injustice, Shanahan and the 49ers embrace the opportunity to take the next steps forward together, as a family.
"This definitely is obviously more important than football and any type of sport," Shanahan said. "If there's anything they want to do constructively as a team or take practice off to do that, there will be zero hesitation on our part. But that's something I'll always leave up to the players."