The San Francisco 49ers, the team whose second-string quarterback started the national anthem protests that have led to league-wide turmoil, announced on Thursday that they are embracing politics off the field too. Their new political effort involves promoting "common sense" gun control.
In partnership with several police unions, the 49ers have pledged $500,000 to a community outreach campaign that in part will promote stricter gun control measures, including banning bump stocks, armor-piercing bullets, and gun silencers, Mercury News reports.
The announcement came during a joint news conference Thursday with police union representatives from Long Beach, Oakland, San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sacramento, California, as well as Portland and New York. The outreach campaign is largely intended to address the issue that originally fueled the anthem protests: the racial tensions between minority communities and the police. The 49ers hope to encourage other teams to join their effort.
Despite the police-community relations focus of the campaign, Mercury News notes that much of the news conference was actually spent "rallying behind proposed federal legislation to ban the bump stocks, and advocating to outlaw armor-piercing bullets and gun silencers the unions contend are a significant threat to law enforcement."
Team CEO Jed York told the press that while he is "not anti-Second Amendment," he thinks it's "insane" that bump stocks can be purchased by citizens. "This is something that is common sense," said York of the gun control measures the team intends to promote.
"We are unwavering in our support of the Second Amendment," insisted Robert Harris, representing a Los Angeles union. "We also believe that common-sense laws should be put into place to protect law-enforcement officers and the citizens they serve."
Colin Kaepernick's first teammate to join him in protesting the country, Eric Reid, cheered the team's new initiatives. "I wouldn't say that our protest led to this. But it is encouraging that the NFL, and in particular our team, stepped up to the plate,” said Reid.
While the league and its individual teams try to figure out how to move forward from the politically divisive anthem protests, new studies show that the popularity of the NFL has declined significantly. A new Fox News poll found that the number of people who have a positive view of the league has dropped off by 18 points, from 64% to 46%. Positive views among Republicans has plummeted by 37%.
The NFL's ratings also continue to decline. From 2015, ratings are down nearly 20% by average.