49ers CEO pledges $1 million to 'help bridge the gap' and address social inequities

ByJim Trotter ESPN logo
Friday, September 9, 2016

SANTA CLARA, Calif. --San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York said Thursday that the team will give $1 million to a pair of local organizations in hopes of finding solutions to racial and economic issues dividing Bay Area communities.

The financial commitment to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the San Francisco Foundation comes one week after quarterbackColin Kaepernickannounced plans to donate the first $1 million of his salary to organizations fighting for human rights.

York said the 49ers' donations would be separate from the $1 million pledged by quarterback Colin Kaepernick to human rights groups. The 49ers' commitment also is to organizations different from those with which Kaepernick will work.

"I'm not sure if he's figured out where he's putting his money," York said. "It's separate from what Colin is doing, regardless of who is on the football team."

Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem during the preseason as a form of protest against police brutality against people of color. He has said he will continue his protest until he sees significant improvement.

The 49ers have not said if they support Kaepernick's form or protest, but the organization is clearly behind his message that change is needed.

"Whether or not I agree with Colin and his form of protest, it doesn't matter," York told ESPN. "I don't think you can argue the facts of the socioeconomic divide that we see, especially in the Bay Area but throughout this country. That's what we want to turn the focus toward. ...

"We want to help bridge the gap and create better dialogue, better communication, better collaboration between law enforcement and the local communities, and continue the efforts that we've taken (through the team's charitable foundation) to keep kids safe, on track and in school in our communities --- and also figure out, What else do we do? Do we create better public-private partnerships? Do we fund some of the groups that are already on the ground? Do we find new things that need to take place? That's what we're focused on. We don't know what the end result will be, but I know we're going to get the right people in the room and start laying a plan out and figure out how we can accomplish this goal." York said the donation is "something that's going to be ongoing." Addressing education, health care, homelessness and after-school programs are some of the pillars of the 49ers' foundation, and York said addressing racial and economic issues is equally important.

"This is one more pillar that's vitally important in our locker room and in our communities," he said. "We want to make sure that law enforcement -- who are the front line on a lot of these issues, and probably not fairly so -- are put in a position to figure out how we can work with the communities to help tie all of that together to help make our communities a better place."

The organization's financial commitment is separate from whatever Kaepernick will do. York has had multiple discussions with Kaepernick about the quarterback's plans and is supportive of helping him make a difference in the community. But ...

"Regardless of who is on this football team and for how long, this is an important issue to the 49ers and our community, and it's something that we're going to stick with for a long time," he said. "It's sad that we've gotten off the real topic, that we're all debating, 'What did you think of this person's comment? What did you think of this form of protest?' as opposed to a socioeconomic divide that's probably worse in the Bay Area than just about anywhere else in the country.

"I'm on several nonprofit boards, the biggest one probably being Tipping Point Community, which is fighting to end poverty in the Bay Area. In a lot of the work that we do, we see poverty at the grassroots level. And when you look at economic divide, especially here, it's approaching the level of developing nations like Guatemala and Rwanda.

"When you look at the median income in San Francisco for African-Americans it's $27,000 a year compared to $89,000 for caucasians," he continued. "That in turn can lead to the incarceration rates that we see in this state where it's almost nine times as likely that an African-American will be imprisoned as a Caucasian. When you see those numbers, those numbers aren't sustainable. The median income gap is more than double the national average. We need to address those things, and that's why I really want to make sure we're doing something about those things. That's why I want to make sure we're focusing on the issues as opposed to the form of protest."

Also on Thursday, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy donated $100,000 to the recently founded Green Bay Police Foundation.

"My goal is be part of the solution to make our community better," said McCarthy, whose father served as a police officer in Pittsburgh for eight years and a firefighter for 30 years.

ESPN Staff Writer Rob Demovsky contributed to this report.

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