The 49ers followed in the footsteps of the San Francisco Giants by becoming the first team in their league to record an "It Gets Better" video condemning anti-gay violence and bullying. The minute-long segment features defenders Donte Whitner, Ahmad Brooks, Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean Francois.
The video, which was filmed in the spring, came about after fan Sean Chapin gathered more than 16,000 signatures on Change.org that encouraged the 49ers to become the first NFL team to make a video. Chapin also petitioned the Giants to become the first MLB team to film an "It Gets Better" spot. Since then, nine other teams, including the Dodgers, Cubs and Red Sox, have filmed their own videos
"With their 'It Gets Better' video, the 49ers are shining a golden beacon of hope to LGBT youth, and as a gay man, I enthusiastically applaud their courage and leadership," said Chapin in a press release. The It Gets Better campaign began in 2010 in response to a rash of suicides by students after they were bullied in school.
The 49ers have released the video on YouTube and Facebook, but there are no plans at this time to play it during a game. A team spokesman said the anti-bullying message fits the mission of the 49ers Foundation to "Keep kids safe, on track and in school."
The 49ers have a history of being socially progressive. Former coach Bill Walsh, for example, pioneered a program in the 1980s to help minority coaches get a foothold in the NFL.
As far as gay issues, however, the team's past is more checkered. In 2002, the 49ers made national news when then-running back Garrison Hearst used a slur when telling The Fresno Bee that he didn't want gay players in the team's locker room.
Long-time trainer Lindsy McLean publicly revealed he was gay upon his retirement in 2004. McLean's sexual orientation was an open secret at the 49ers facility. He has said he mostly was treated with respect during more than two decades as the team's top trainer, but he also has spoken about incidents of taunting and harassment by players.
*** In fairness to the 49ers' NFC West rivals, Seahawks receiver Mike Williams took part in an "It Gets Better" video a year ago alongside athletes from Seattle's MLB, WNBA and MLS teams.
-- Matt Barrows