49ers CEO York talks about fan voices, dangers of social media, impact of Kaepernick in 2016, COVID concerns – Marin Independent Journal
It pained Jed York not to have fans at Levi’s Stadium last season. There could be no overflowing celebration as defending NFC champions, nor any foray for season ticket holders into their limitless world of food and drink.
York now paints a friendly picture of what to expect for the Faithful 49ers this coming season, as well as how past events have shaped the franchise.
Here are highlights from York’s session on the London-based Leaders Seminar, where he participated virtually with Buffalo Bills owner Kim Pegula and moderator Ted Leonsis, CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment:
REOPENING OF LEVI STADIUM
After fans were kicked out of Levi’s Stadium last season amid the coronavirus pandemic, York insisted safety remained a top priority as they hoped to fill the stands this season. “I clearly think that will be a big part of at least what this football season looks like, because COVID is not going to go away, at least in our minds,” York said. “So we’re going to have to do a lot of things and a lot of hand in hand with our fans and just know that it’s going to be a little different from the 2019 season and all the pre-COVID seasons.”
This could include masks, temperature checks, COVID tests and vaccine passports. The 49ers will host exhibitions against the Chiefs (August 14) and Raiders (August 29) ahead of a regular-season home opener against the Packers (September 26).
“Our fans can’t wait to come back,” added York. “… When you’re the NFC champions and you can’t celebrate that with the fans at all, that was one of the really tough things for us in 2020, because our fans played such a big part in it. what was this 2019 season.
“Not being able to share a moment of raising the banner of the NFC Championship with your fans there, it was difficult. This is where you continue to find creative ways to socialize with your fans, which we probably didn’t do before COVID. Reminder to Jed: don’t put up NFC banners, only Super Bowl titles.
Super League and NFL Draft
The fan revolt led to the proposed Super League’s swift demise among European football titans, and although the York 49ers own a part of Premier League fan Leeds United, it channeled the NFL hype. Draft last month to see how fans can influence moves.
“If fans want to write someone up at (#) 3, you can’t just recruit the person your fans want because you want to appease people on social media,” York said. “But you have to listen to your fans’ underlying concerns about… it’s their passion, something that they put their hearts into, they put a big chunk of their wallet, and that means something to them.”
49ers fans roared on social media in April, especially as they feared the potential selection of Mac Jones than the eventual drafting of Trey Lance.
“If you’ve misinterpreted your fan base in such a blatant way, there is something wrong. It’s more than a business, ”said York. “It’s not about selling widgets and you’re trying to maximize your profits. You have to understand that you are the keeper of a community treasure and if you don’t understand it things can turn on you very, very quickly and your business is going to be in a very, very bad situation. You need to connect with your fan base and do what’s appropriate for the whole community. ”
LESSONS FROM KAEPERNICK 2016
Five years after Colin Kaepernick began protesting social inequalities and police misconduct, York reflected on how this has placed the 49ers at the forefront of an ongoing movement.
“A lot of the social justice movement in sports started with Colin Kaepernick, I can’t remember which season, the 2016 season,” York said. “We had great conversations with our locker rooms, from that point on. It has been quite fascinating for me to see people, like we have seen George Floyd and other heinous incidents that have taken place in our country, where people are having the same conversations then that we have had for several. years here.
“As awareness grows, you don’t end racism overnight, but you take a step forward. People who maybe don’t see racism the same way or who haven’t grown up like some of our players, when you get the chance to step into their skin a little bit and share their experiences, you see how point this is important is.
“The guys aren’t looking for a document. They want to be treated like everyone else is treated. They want you to understand what their experiences have been. If you don’t see this and don’t understand that things are different for a young African American man than they were for me growing up, then you don’t really have a place at the table to take our country from. ‘where we’ve’ been in a much, much better place.
(Pegula added: “When Kaepernick took a knee it seemed like a political issue. At that point we were very convinced, ‘Let’s stay neutral. We don’t want to turn football into politics.’ I give the 49ers. a lot of credit because even though it was, if you want to call it a distraction back then, you really took a stand that there was nothing wrong with that, when a much of the country was opposed and against Kaepernick. ”
SOCIAL MEDIA RISKS
York has had fun this offseason playing with 49ers fans via Twitter. Social media, however, also presents dangers for young players, he acknowledged.
“I have seen with our players and others that they are getting too involved in social media and it can take a toll on mental health,” York said. “Just because I think it’s a negative aspect of social media doesn’t mean that social media is disappearing. Social media is there, it’s a way we’re going to communicate with our friends, with our fans, it’s just a fact.
“And you have to understand that this was part of my draft day (tweets), letting people know that you can have fun, but you can’t make the number of people follow you or make them like you. “and” retweets “define you as a person. It’s difficult with a young person coming in. When you’re 23 or 24 you’re an adult but a young adult and you have to be aware of your mental health. can affect people. That’s my only negative on social media. We can all do a better job helping our guys emerge in this space.
MORE ALL-ACCESS SHOWS
Asked what changes could be made to the NFL, York is pushing for “much more diverse leadership” at the front office, from coaches and scouts at the league office and team level. As for the fans …
“You’re going to see more connectivity between fans and players and teams, as technology is taking us in that direction,” York said, noting that the opening night of the draft drew 12.5 million viewers. “It shows how integral the NFL is to our lives.
“It’s going to get deeper. Instead of an all-access show that ends the year, you’re going to see more of it, much to the dismay of some of our coaches. In 2030, when you have the millennial social media generation, this is exactly what they will be used to. People are not comfortable with it, they will look from the outside. ”