Seven San Francisco 49ers players recently teamed up with 53 second-grade students from Piedmont Elementary School to explore the important topics of diversity and justice.
The event, held at Levi's® Stadium's community classroom, aimed to celebrate individuality and promote inclusivity among the young minds. The students started their day at the 49ers Museum to view The Long Game exhibit, where they learned about Bay Area sports icons who have elevated social justice into mainstream conversation. Once the group made it to the classroom, students collaborated with 49ers players to learn about the importance of diversity and better understand justice.
Defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Javon Kinlaw, tight end George Kittle, running back Jordan Mason, linebacker Curtis Robinson and offensive linemen Matt Pryor and Leroy Watson IV joined in on the 49ers EDU lesson where they worked with students to answer questions such as "What is justice?" and "What makes you special?". Together, the students and players worked on an arts and crafts project designed to help each person express what makes them unique. Armed with paper supplies and creativity, the class created paper plants that symbolized their uniqueness.
Once the plants were complete, it was time to share them with the class. Each student and player proudly displayed their paper creations and explained the significance of their designs. The exercise encouraged self-expression and reinforced the idea that diversity is to be celebrated. All of the paper plants were arranged in a "Just Ask Garden" to symbolize unity regardless of background and ability.
DL Nick Bosa, DL Javon Kinlaw, TE George Kittle and more 49ers players joined a 49ers EDU lesson where they worked with second-grade students on an arts and crafts project about diversity and justice.
After the 49ers EDU lesson, students transitioned to the 49ers Read for Justice event presented by Newfront. Defensive lineman Arik Armstead, a three-time 49ers Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee, joined as the event storyteller, reading aloud "Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You" by Sonia Sotomayor, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. His teammates Austin Bryant and T.Y. McGill joined to sit in on the reading and participate in discussion with the second-grade students.
"Read for justice is a great event that we've been doing for a few years," Armstead said. "We have the opportunity to spend some time with kids and read amazing books to them and really share the importance of social justice and the importance of embracing everyone's differences. That's what the books are about every year and it's really fun to take some time and read with them. The kids have a lot of fun and we have a lot of fun doing it, too."
Throughout the reading, Armstead asked the students questions, encouraging them to reflect on the story's themes of diversity and inclusion. The class took away a powerful message about the importance of embracing differences and fostering a sense of belonging for all.
"I believe in humanity," Armstead said. "I believe that we're all more alike than we are different. Everyone deserves that respect, no matter if we eat different foods, if we look a little different or talk a little different, we all deserve that respect from one another. Preaching that message to the youth while they're young and instilling that into them is very important."
Most notably, the 49ers commitment to promoting diversity extended beyond the Read for Justice event itself. A total of 3,100 copies of "Just Ask: Be Brave, Be Different, Be You" were purchased from Ashay By The Bay, a Bay Area Black-owned bookstore, and were gifted to all second-grade students of the Oakland Unified School District. The 49ers hope is that by providing a book to these students and sharing this reading, the organization can instill an early love for education and open the dialogue for important lessons around diversity, inclusion and equity.
The 49ers hosted second grade students from the Oakland Unified School District to read "Just Ask: Be Brave, Be Different, Be You" by Sonia Sotomayor with Arik Armstead, Austin Bryant and T.Y. McGill.