San Francisco 49ers GM John Lynch wants his team to be a coveted destination for NFL free agents.
“It’s 75 degrees and sunny outside, we’ve got [QB Jimmy Garoppolo], who wouldn’t want to be here?” Lynch said.
The answer to that might be “a lot of people.”
For a confluence of reasons, the Bay Area’s seeing a mass exodus.
“The number of people packing up and moving out of the Bay Area just hit its highest level in more than a decade,” wrote reporter Len Ramirez for the KPIX-TV website.
According to Patrick May of San Jose Mercury-News, “16,000 residents [headed] for the exits during the last quarter of 2017.”
What why are so many people taking their hearts and leaving San Francisco?
40-year Bay Area resident Carol Dabak told KPIX she’s moving to Tennessee.
“I loved it here when I first got here. I really loved it here. But it’s just not the same,” Dabak said. “We don’t like it here anymore. You know, we don’t like this sanctuary state status and just the politics here.”
A commenter named “SouthbayBuilder” wrote on the Mercury-News website, “I would consider myself liberal, but politics in this area are borderline insane too. The pension issue could really be what destroys the state.”
“SouthbayBuilder” also complained about the “cost of living” and “bumper-to-bumper traffic.”
So Lynch’s ability to sell free agents on his team might not be as easy as saying, “It’s 75 degrees and sunny outside.”
And there are some other reasons it might be a tough sell.
There could be some free agents who don’t like the 49ers being the epicenter of the anthem-kneeling movement the last two seasons.
The kneeling movement was started in the 2016 preseason by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media on August 27, 2016. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
While Kaepernick left the 49ers following the 2017 season, the kneeling continued led by safety Eric Reid, who became the new leader of the movement. This past season, the 49ers consistently had the most kneeling players in the league.
For instance, about half of the 49ers took a knee during the National Anthem prior to an October 1, 2017 game in Arizona.
“We know that racism and white privilege are both very much alive today,” Reid wrote in a New York Times guest column about the protests on September 25, 2017.
Reid doesn’t understand why his kneeling is considered, “disrespectful to the country” by some.
“It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel,” Reid wrote in the Times. “We chose it because it’s exactly the opposite. It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest.”
Reid is a free agent this off-season. What to do with Reid, a talented player, could be a tough decision for Lynch.
If the 49ers re-sign him, it could turn off some free agents who disagree with anthem-kneeling. But in fairness, it could also attract players who support the movement.
Another tough decision for Lynch will be what to do with anthem-kneeler Reuben Foster, but the decision has nothing to do with the protests. Foster was arrested Sunday on a domestic-violence charge. If Foster, a skillful linebacker, is guilty, and the 49ers keep him around, this could turn off some perspective free agents.
So when Lynch poses the question, “Who wouldn’t want to be here?” the answer isn’t so simple.
With the Bay Area losing some luster, and issues swirling around the 49ers, the answer to his question isn’t as cut-and-dried as he might think.