It all started when San Francisco 49ers Eli Harold randomly turned on the TV and started flipping channels. Normally he would have been playing in a game or traveling to one, but this Sunday was an off day. The linebacker who says he never watches ESPN happened to land right in the middle of the conversation that former 49ers QB, and current ESPN commentator, Trent Dilfer was having regarding Colin Kaepernick and his protest. He feelings were summed up quite succinctly in his tweet:
Trent Dilfer you are an idiot. You really just pissed me off.— Mad Max (@EliHarold_) September 11, 2016
After the game, Harold spoke passionately to the media for over five minutes about what prompted his tweet. Earlier in the week Harold was undecided if he was going to participate in a demonstration during the National Anthem but Dilfer’s comments may have been the impetus behind the linebacker’s actions. Harold is openly involved in an interracial relationship which prompted him to articulate it by saying “I love white people” more than once during his talk with the media.
It’s all about equality and I fell like if a guy is trying to represent something and stand up for something, I feel like you should not shoot that man down [or] boo him when he’s on the field. That stuff shouldn’t happen.
Harold also talked about how he and other players have the ability to use their platform in a positive way, which only ‘takes them to the next level’ in preparation for a life after football. His acknowledgment that the game doesn’t last forever should hit home to more than just a few and he mentioned having a strong role in the community as an option after his career is over. But Harold didn’t stop there.
What really pissed me off is when he said, ‘Your job as a back up quarterback is to make sure the guy above you is ready. You shouldn’t have the right to say that, You shouldn’t have a right to put yourself on a pedestal, and make yourself above the team.’
How did he make himself above the team? How? Where in what Kap is doing, where has he once put himself above the team?
And he said that it’s dividing the locker room. First of all, how do you know what our locker room is? How do you know how we act in the locker room? Everybody says that Kap is isolated, everybody says that he does stuff without guys. Kap is a great guy. He’s smart, he reads a lot, he’s all for the team. So [Dilfer’s] comments, that just really took me over the edge.
Harold continued talking about the team’s bond with each other that began shortly after they realized that Kaepernick was not going to another team. He cited Marcus Rush’s game winning interception that sealed the game against San Diego as an example of the team’s support of one another. Coaches and players from both sides of the ball ran out to congratulate the linebacker on his game changing moment.
The part of Dilfer’s speech that incensed Harold the most was when he inferred that the locker room was becoming divided.
You’re not with us. You don’t know anything about no one on this team. You’re not with us each and every day. You don’t see what we see, you’re not in here. We play ping pong together, we play cards all day, we play dominoes together on breaks. I mean, we’re just all for each other. Offense, defense special teams. Everybody's for each other. That really sent me over the edge.
What may have been a more football focused post game media availability returned back to the pregame demonstration and we can all blame one person for that, Trent Dilfer. Clearly he added significant fuel to the fire.