Why Eric Reid decided to kneel with Colin Kaepernick

SAN DIEGO -- It gnawed at Eric Reid all week.

Reid, a member of the San Francisco 49ers' leadership council and the team's players union representative, believed strongly in the message of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, even if he wasn't totally comfortable with how Kaepernick was going about conveying that message.

So Reid spent much of the past week trying to figure out how he could support Kaepernick in a meaningful way that also didn't make him uncomfortable.

"It’s something that’s been on my mind all week," Reid said. "I believe in what he’s doing. I believe that there are issues in this country -- many issues, too many to name. It’s not one particular issue. But there are people out there that feel there are injustices being made and happening in our country on a daily basis. I just wanted to show him I support him. I know there are other people in this country that feel the same way."

But not all of those people had an opportunity to join Kaepernick on the sideline during the national anthem before Thursday night's preseason finale against the San Diego Chargers. Reid did. And when the anthem began, he joined Kaepernick in dropping to one knee as Petty Officer First Class Steven Powell belted it out.

When Powell was through, Kaepernick and Reid stood and embraced. It was a meaningful moment for Kaepernick.

"It was amazing," Kaepernick said. "Me and Eric had many conversations and he approached me and said 'I support what you’re doing, I support what your message is, let’s think about how we can do this together.' We talked about it at length and we wanted to make sure the message that we’re trying to send isn’t lost with the actions that come along with it."

Those lengthy discussions led to another long conversation on Thursday afternoon at the team's hotel. There, Reid and Kaepernick met with Nate Boyer, the former Army Green Beret and Seattle Seahawks long snapper. Boyer had written a letter to Kaepernick on ArmyTimes.com during the week and Kaepernick invited him to attend the game as his guest.

Boyer traveled here from Los Angeles and spent 90 minutes exchanging thoughts and ideas with Kaepernick and Reid. One of the goals was to find a way to show respect to the military while still standing up for what they believe in.

"Nate told us how he felt," Reid said. "He actually showed us the text-messages that his buddies were sending, how they said they were pissed about what [Kaepernick] did, but they still understood why he was doing it. Which led to the decision for him to not sit but to take a knee, to show respect to the people that felt hurt by that action. So I think that it was very big of him to change his physical position, to taking a knee, to show respect to those people, but still stand up for the message he was trying to portray.

"I knew that I wanted to support him. I felt uncomfortable about sitting, I didn’t know if that was something I wanted to do. That’s why it was great that it came up in conversation of 'hey why don’t we take a knee?' It would be more respectful and Nate agreed with that. That’s how it happened."

Reid said his decision to join Kaepernick had nothing to do with his standing in the NFLPA, and he did not inform the 49ers before joining Kaepernick because he didn't feel supporting Kaepernick would be detrimental to the team.

When Kaepernick first addressed the issue at length on Sunday, he recounted stories where he has felt personally oppressed, particularly during his time in college. Reid said he doesn't have those same feelings, but there have been things that have struck a nerve.

"I don’t personally feel oppressed, but I think there are things that have happened in this country that touch very close to home for me," Reid said. "This is a responsibility that he feels, and it’s a responsibility that I feel as well, and it’s bigger than football. If that means that some people get upset and want to say mean things, well, that’s fine. But there are people out there that have been dealt with unjustly, and the conversation is worth doing what’s been done."

Reid is hoping conversations like the ones he had with Kaepernick during the week and the one they shared with Boyer on Thursday will become the norm -- not only around the 49ers but around the country. Those are the type of conversations that might be uncomfortable for some, but that Kaepernick believes can lead to real change.

"I talked to Colin, and right now his goal is to keep the dialogue open," Reid said. "He believes that nothing is going to change unless it’s talked about first. But then, ultimately, to get into the community and start affecting change on those issues. It’s not just some rebellious action by sitting or kneeling during the national anthem. The end result is to get in the community and actually affect change on those issues that we believe are in this country."