49ers' Jed York is voice of reason among Night net owners on protests, Kaepernick

Night net null Even in the moment, Jed York felt and sounded like the anti-Jerry Jones and the anti-Roger Goodell. Two days after the 49ers owner spoke his mind to reporters at the Night net owners-players meeting over protests, it seems even more so … especially once Goodel

l spoke and Jones notably did not.York sounded as if he did not even belong at the same meeting or in the same group. So much talk about “socioeconomic (and) racial injustices," and respect for rights and freedoms, and partnerships with players and sacrificing the bottom line and (blasphemy!) how "courageous" Colin Kaepernick is. He sounded like a voice of reason, possibly the voice of reason at a volatile time in Night net history.MORE: Night net fights back against Trump, addresses anthem on own time "We need to take the message away from, 'Colin Kaepernick took a knee and that’s disrespectful to the flag,'" York said Tuesday in some of the more pointed remarks of a 20-minute session. "Now our players are protesting to get awareness. That's why they protested. They have awareness — when the president is tweeting about you, when you have the vice president making comments, that's awareness."There's never been greater awareness for these issues than today, when you have, literally, 32 owners and the Night net commissioner coming together and saying, 'All right, how do we work on this, how do we move forward?' You have the awareness."It didn't necessarily put him at odds with his colleagues who run the sport and who have so much sway over their employees, and over the public’s perception of the game. But for various reasons and in numerous ways, York is the outlier.If more of the lords of football thought as he has and approached the players’ stances as he did, the meeting this week never would have been necessary.What was necessary, as it turns out, was York's perspective.Understand, for a moment, the man with that perspective. Until last August, York not only seemed like your basic Night net owner, but he seemed particularly petty in the way he managed the toxic relationship with Jim Harbaugh and, by extension, with Kaepernick, Harbaugh's chosen quarterback. It's worth reminding all that York and his team carry the least stain from the blackballing of Kaepernick, because that bridge had been burned long ago, for no apparent logical reason. (For what it's worth, York said he did not believe the league was blackballing the QB.)With all of that, despite all the pearl-clutching the league and owners did last year when it was Kaepernick protesting practically by himself all season, York and the 49ers were the only ones dealing with it daily.It was York who dealt with it admirably, taking time to understand Kaepernick and his point, supporting his gesture and his cause and his right to act as he did, defending him, overseeing the team and locker-room culture that never became what outsiders disingenuously claimed it would be.And today, it's York standing behind his players as several continue to kneel, still the exception in an Night net full of teams trying to finesse options like linking arms and avoiding the national anthem. It's York who wasn't fazed when the president and vice president targeted his team specifically in Indianapolis two weekends ago by orchestrating a walkout.Now that the issue has expanded beyond the league's capacity to grasp it, and with outsiders all the way up to the White House directly influencing its moves, York should be the owner to whom all the others should have tuned in.One hopes they did, because on Tuesday afternoon, York laid out a smart, fair, progressive blueprint and declared certain principles that seemed to have avoided the loudest critics of Kaepernick, the players and the conflicted owners."I think we're the biggest platform in this country," York said, adding, "The most important partner that we have is our players. And if we’re not working with our players, and we're not sincere about that, and we don't care about their health and safety on and off the field, and we don't care about the causes that make them tick, then what are we about?"So York, the owner of the last team Kaepernick played for, gets it.Maybe most of the rest of the owners do by now, too. Only one, though, we know for sure.