The protest movement among NFL players originated last season with the San Francisco 49ers, the Dallas Cowboys’ opponent Sunday.
Former quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the protests to raise awareness for police brutality against people of color and social injustices. A few of his teammates joined him and have continued kneeling during the national anthem this season.
About 20 players took a knee during the anthem when the 49ers played at Indianapolis earlier this month, prompting vice president Mike Pence to bolt the game early. That moment led to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones saying he would bench players who protested during the national anthem.
The Cowboys face the 49ers in the Bay Area this weekend, and the protests will remain a storyline. But first-year San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said they haven’t been a distraction for his team.
“No, it hasn’t at all to tell you the truth,” Shanahan said in a conference call with DFW media. “It’s something that we really haven’t had to talk about very much. I know it became a bigger deal a few weeks ago when more guys did it. I haven’t heard our players talk about it around the building. It’s something that to me is talked about more outside the building.”
Shanahan also reiterated the 49ers’ stance that they will not object to players using their platform during the national anthem to protest.
“Our organization is going to support people’s rights and that’s what people choose to do,” Shanahan said. “Our stance is that we’re not going to tell them differently. I like to talk to our guys and figure out what they’re thinking. When you do, you do learn a lot about it and you can understand. But it definitely isn’t my job or anyone else’s to tell them what to do.”