Photo: Wade Payne/AP

Former NFL QB Trent Dilfer has jumped into the conversation about San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick’s protests during the national anthem, and it’s been a rough couple of days for him.

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Dilfer performed an elaborate rendition of “stick to sports” on Sunday’s edition of NFL Countdown, as he called protesting players “irresponsible” for expressing their beliefs, “because people aren’t tuning in to us to hear about what we feel about all these social issues.” He acknowledged that his thoughts weren’t as important as Kaepernick’s, because of their different backgrounds, but he said he believed that a team could not succeed on the field if its players were distracted by issues off of it.

“No matter how passionate you are, no matter how much of a burden you have for social issues, you don’t let it get in the way of the team. This is a backup quarterback whose job is to be quiet and sit in the shadows and get the starter ready to play in Week 1. Yet he chose a time where all of a sudden, he became the center of attention.”

The former quarterback added that Kaepernick’s stance had torn the 49ers’ locker room apart. How he would know that is a mystery; Bay Area reporters Ann Killion and Tim Kawakami both noted that Dilfer and 49ers GM Trent Baalke are close friends, and that Dilfer has in the past—and probably in this case too—served as Baalke’s mouthpiece. So when you hear Dilfer speak, you’re hearing the true opinions of the Niners’ GM.

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“Although I respect what he’s doing, and I respect the passion and burden he has for this issue, a massive issue, I do not respect the fact that he put himself and his stance above the team.”

Niners linebacker Eli Harold didn’t agree with the ESPN analyst’s statements, and said it was Dilfer’s comments that spurred him to raise his fist during the national anthem before Monday’s game.

Although the 49ers didn’t enter the season with the highest of hopes, they showed no signs of internal chaos as they dominated the Los Angeles Rams, 28-0. After San Francisco’s game, Kaepernick was asked about Dilfer’s comments.

“[Saying] ‘You’re a backup quarterback, stay in your place,’ that’s an issue. To me, you’re telling me that my position as a backup quarterback and being quiet is more important than people’s lives. I would ask him to really have a conversation with the families of people that have been murdered and see if he still feels that way, because I bet you he doesn’t. Just ‘cause he hasn’t experienced that type of oppression.

“I hope he goes home and really thinks about what he said, and how it impacts not just me, but how it impacts people whose lives are affected by these issues on a daily basis.”

Dilfer appeared on radio station KNBR on Tuesday to clarify his comments. He said he had prepared all week to refine his Countdown takes in a way that would be thoughtful, but not give in to the “politically correct police.” (His words.) Dilfer believed that too many people focused on the part of his spiel where he said the role of a backup quarterback is to shut up. Then, in a bizarre twist, Dilfer invoked the time when he was a backup on the Seattle Seahawks and kept his mouth shut about child slavery, because he didn’t want to derail the team.

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“My wife and I had been introduced to some really disturbing stuff and other social injustices: Childhood slavery in our country. And I’d gone to a couple seminars and presentations where we got really deep in the weeds about this issue. It became a passion of ours to help fight this battle of childhood slavery around the country and I had a very big platform in Seattle and I could have leveraged being a Seattle Seahawk, being an NFL quarterback, done a lot to get that message out there, but I chose not to at the sake of not wanting to disrupt the team and I never want to draw attention to myself, and take it away from Matt, the rest of our team and our preparation to win.”

Hey, Trent Dilfer’s no hero, but he avoided imploding his team by speaking out against child slavery and attracting all those proponents of child slavery to harass him and call for boycotts of the Seahawks. Imagine those intense media scrums where Dilfer would have to face question after question about why he doesn’t support child slavery. It’s a good thing he stayed quiet so Seattle could achieve its 9-7 record in peace.

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Many athletes support non-controversial charities and endeavors without affecting their teams, because they have lives outside of their careers. Dilfer is misguided when he uses his cause as an example, and it’s an especially dishonest argument in the NFL, a league that dedicates special apparel and times of the year for causes that have nothing to do with the sport. Seriously, Trent, what does the military have to do with football?

The crude response to Dilfer would be to tell the only quarterback to be cut in the offseason after winning a Super Bowl to shut the fuck up and stick to Dilfer’s Dimes, if that segment even still exists. Kaepernick did not do that. Instead, he graciously recommended that Dilfer mull over his words and consider their impact. In particular, I suggest that Dilfer should return to the portion where he realized that his voice doesn’t carry much weight in this conversation. He made his choice during his playing career to stay silent about the issues he cares about. No other NFL player has to do the same.