CEO explains why team
abstained from NFL vote
By Greg Gulas
Jed York and the San Francisco 49ers abstained from a vote this week on the NFL’s new national anthem policy.
The Cardinal Mooney High School graduate and 49ers CEO explained his stance Friday during an appearance at the Edward J. DeBartolo Memorial Scholarship Foundation dinner, which took place at Covelli Centre.
“The big reason for us abstaining from the vote is I think we’re focused on the wrong issue,” York said. “The 49ers as a team, and us as a family and an organization, we want to work on social justice reform. We want to work with our players and we want to bring our team into the community and focus on that.
“I think the anthem issue just detracts from that vision in trying to make progress and that’s really our goal. It’s going from protest to progress. We feel like we’re in the progress stage and we want to focus on that.”
York was joined by 49ers general manager John Lynch and players Jimmy Garoppolo, Marquise Goodwin, Robbie Gould and Joe Staley.
The 49ers contingent was among the more than 400 in attendance.
The dinner and auction raises money for its scholarship honorees. To date the foundation has raised $1.1 million.
This year, 20 students comprised its largest class from the tri-county area with $140,000 in scholarships awarded.
“It’s something that my grandfather started a long time ago, so to be able to carry this on several decades later just means a lot to our family,” York said. “We want to do everything we can to give back to the community and want to continue to give money to kids that need it, kids that don’t have the opportunity to go to college and kids who should be going to college and just don’t have the chance to.”
Lynch said the Yorks understand what it means to give back to their community.
“They do so many wonderful deeds for the community and when you have the opportunity to do that, I think they understand that and take it to heart,” he said. “They do so much good and tonight’s program is just another example. We’re proud to be here and support the scholarship foundation.”
The addition of Lynch has been most welcome, according to York.
“Collectively, we have people that care about the team, care about the community and want to make sure that we do everything that we can to win on the field and win off the field,” he said. “When you look at a guy like John Lynch, he had an unconventional sort of path to becoming a general manager but he’s a guy that brings the most out of everybody. He truly is a great leader in terms of bringing people together and having a clear focus, a clear vision and getting people to execute that vision.”
Playing for former 49ers head coach Bill Walsh during his final season at Stanford was most memorable for Lynch.
“Bill was incredible. I think the terms genius for football coaches is used far too often, but he really was,” he said. “He was an innovator and ahead of his time. He was doing things that now businesses are run by the principles hew created. The whole league kind of took his practice schedule. He was such a wise man and a very loyal man, a coach who would stand up for his players. I only played for him one year, but he was there for me the rest of my career.”
Garoppolo seems to have made a smooth transition from the Patriots to 49ers.
San Francisco started 0-9 last season and finished 6-1 after acquiring the former New England backup.
“I think there’s enthusiasm, but the unfortunate thing in sports is that you start a new season and every new season is fresh so we need to work right now,” Garoppolo said. “That’s what we’re doing in mini-camp and OTAs.
“We’re trying to build from the ground up and I think we’re doing a good job of that. The 49ers organization has been awesome, everything about it has been first class and it starts right at the top.”
Goodwin, who registered 10 receptions during a 25-23 win over the Tennessee Titans in December, said the focus was immediately on this season once last year ended.
“We’re just focusing on things we can control, which is out work ethic, our preparation through the off-season and building a solid foundation going in to the season,” he said.
Staley, who was drafted 28th overall by the team in 2007 and is heading into his 13th season with the club, praised the Yorks and DeBartolos for their giving ways.
“They do a ton and are a very giving family,” Staley said. “They’ve done a ton locally and a ton for the Bay Area as well. This is my third time coming to this event and it’s really awesome.”
Gould, who spent his first 11 seasons with the Chicago Bears and another with the New York Giants, spent last year with San Francisco and noted the Yorks’ giving ways.
“They have a huge heart. They’re always looking to give back to the communities they’re involved in whether it’s here locally with scholarships or with other educational programs,” he said. “It’s fun to be part of this and also an honor to help them raise money to help kids out.”
More than 400 scholarship applications were received this year. The committee considered a candidate’s academic performance, need and community service.