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Humble 49ers starter hopes and prays anthem protests make a difference

A goal for sportsmatters.co is to reach every 49ers player about the current anthem protest, started by teammate Colin Kaepernick. First, I provide context with a brief player bio and then explore their thoughts on Kaepernick’s protest and their own experiences with racism. One stipulation, my point of view is from a white male who grew up mainly in a white suburb, consequently, by attempting to understand experiences other than my own, I may have not learned enough to be fully understanding and respectful.

Tramaine Brock after intercepting a pass last year against the Giants (Elsa, Getty images).

Tramaine Brock after intercepting a pass last year against the Giants (Elsa, Getty images).

Cornerback Tramaine Brock (African American)

Background: Grew up in Long Beach MS (population 17,000), a town just outside of Gulfport, which is the state’s second largest town (pop 67,000). Both towns sit on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. Brock and his older brother and sister where raised by their mother Marsha, a dedicated Christian who worked with the disabled and as a casino house keeper. Her jobs allowed her to buy a house in Long Beach.

Brock also grew up in a Christian church and if a friend stayed over at the Brock household, they were obligated to attend church on Sunday with the Brocks.

After starring at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Brock transferred to the University of Minnesota, and ranked third on the team in tackles as a safety. He became academically ineligible after one season and felt the school lost interest in him after that.

He transferred to Belhaven in Jackson, MS, which is 150 miles from Long Beach. A Christian college of 2,600 students, Belhaven is too small to be part of the NCAA. Their practice field is 30 yards short of regulation and is known as the “Big backyard.”

Nevertheless, Brock drew interest from the 49ers in 2010 as a rookie free agent, and the team inked him with a laughably low $500 signing bonus. The determined and talented Brock became the first rookie free agent in five seasons to make the team.

He worked his way up from the practice squad to starter in his seven seasons with the team, which makes him one of the 49ers longest tenured players. Former Belhaven coach Joe Thrasher said that Brock’s most prevailing quality is humility.

His thoughts on the anthem protest: Quiet and soft spoken, here is what Brock had to say about Colin Kaepernick’s decision to protest the national anthem in the name of injustice.

“I think what he has done, did and is doing, it’s brave of him,” Brock said. “He is taking a stand for the world, not just himself. I don’t believe I would do it, I commend him on it. I think it’s positive.”

Brock’s support of Kaepernick partially stems from an incident in community college, when he and a friend were pulled over by police. It was a K9 unit vehicle and Brock believes they were partially stopped because the car’s windows were tinted.

Brock said cops have just cause to search a car if the dog gets into the car to sniff for drugs or guns. Brock said the cop basically threw the dog in the backseat. Subsequently, Brock and his friend were detained on the sidewalk as the dog and the police ravaged the vehicle looking for drugs or guns. They found neither.

After that experience and knowing that unarmed black suspects have been killed, Brock admitted to being scared when he is pulled over.

“I get scared, because I know that situation (when someone is hurt or killed by cops) can happen,” Brock said. “It could easily happen. I get kind of nervous because I can’t control that kind of situation.”

Like many of his teammates, Brock is hopeful Kaepernick’s protest will increase awareness and acknowledgment of police harrassment.

“Some people, who haven’t experienced that, they don’t believe it,” Brock said. “I’m not saying they are wrong for it, but they don’t think about it, so they think it can’t happen. … Some people can learn without going through (the experience of police harassment). Some people have to go through it.”

Also like most of his teammates, Brock’s hopeful the attention directed on police harrassment and social injustice by the prostests will make a difference. To that end, Brock does what his mother taught him to do.

“I pray about it just getting better,” he said.

Twitter: @klynch49

Kevin Lynch

Kevin Lynch is in his 27th season covering the NFL, the San Francisco 49ers and Bay Area sports. He also is a guest radio host and pregame 49ers host on KNBR-AM San Francisco - the flagship station for the 49ers, San Francisco Giants, and Stanford football and basketball. Working mainly for sfgate.com, the San Francisco Chronicle's web site, Lynch is expanding into sports' biggest questions and hottest debates such as - LBGTQ acceptance, athlete criminality, the ethics of performance-enhancing drugs, marijuana, locker room culture, sports and gender, sports and sex, sports and money, sports and race, sports and social change and many other issues. He has written editorials on LBGTQ resistance in sports for the Chronicle and has appeared on KQED radio, Comcast Sports Bay Area and ESPN's Outside the Lines to talk about a variety of sports topics. He completed a Master's in Sociology at San Jose State in 2015, which included a thesis on LBGtT Resistant Attitudes and Behaviors in Sports.

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