Eric Reid – the former San Francisco 49er defensive back who kneeled alongside quarterback teammate Colin Kaepernick season ago during national anthems – has signed with the Carolina Panthers after filing a grievance against the National Football League for allegedly colluding to keep him out of the league over his defiant protests.
The anthem-protesting safety was able to sign a one-year contract with the Panthers on Thursday – despite the fact that the kneeling controversy has finally started to die down in the NFL, with only a few players still dishonoring the flag. However, some in the NFL continue to champion the ringleaders of the defiant anti-American movement.
“Eric Reid’s return to the NFL created a buzz around the league on Thursday – six months after he filed a grievance alleging collusion by the NFL to prevent teams from signing him because of his participation in racial injustice protests during the national anthem alongside former San Francisco 49ers teammate Colin Kaepernick,” The Associated Press (AP) reported. “Some NFL players were excited about the 2013 Pro Bowl safety signing a one-year deal with the Panthers, but were quick to point out they believe Kaepernick should be back in the league as well.”
Warm reception by former teammates …
Kaepernick – who was recently endorsed by Nike in its new campaign championing the fact that he gave up his career to stand for his beliefs – congratulated Reid on his new signing and induction back into the NFL – something the ex-quarterback has been unable to do.
“Congrats 2 my brother @e_reid35, all pro safety who should have been signed the 1st day of free agency, who has signed a football contract,” Kaepernick tweeted Thursday. “He was the 1ST person 2 kneel alongside me. Eric is a social justice warrior, continues to support his family. and communities in need.”
One NFL player who played with Reid and Kaepernick on the 49ers, Carlos Hyde – now the running back for the Cleveland Browns, who went winless (0–16) last season – was shocked when he discovered his former teammate was signed by the Panthers.
“For real?” Hyde asked after the Browns’ practice, according to AP. “I’m so happy for him. It’s been too long. I kind of felt like they was doing him the same way they were doing Kap, so it’s good to see E-Reid got signed and Kap should definitely be up next. It would be a real good thing then.”
Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett also chimed in about Reid’s return to the NFL by commenting, “It’s about time,” according to AP.
The Panthers were evidently pleased to announce signing Reid by taking to social media.
“The moment you’ve been waiting for,” the Panthers tweeted about Reid’s signing Thursday.
Back in NFL after grievance
The Panthers gave the free agent a second shot just several months after the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) filed a non-injury grievance and a system arbitrator case on behalf of Reid.
“The union based its grievance on the premise that no NFL rule mandates players stand during the playing of the national anthem, that the league has indicated it respects ‘the rights of players to demonstrate,’ and the collective bargaining agreement states ‘league rules supersede club rules,’ according to a NFLPA press release,” NFL.com announced in May. “The NFLPA asked representatives of free agent players ‘who had participated in peaceful on-field demonstrations to collect, memorialize and report any relevant information about potential violations of the [CBA] by teams,’ per the release.”
The grievance was filed under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, and argued that the NFL’s so-called collusion had kept him from being offered a job for the 2018 season.
Mark Geragos – who is representing both Reid and Kaepernick as their attorney in their grievances against the NFL – commended both players at the time.
"Colin [Kaepernick] and Eric [Reid] have taken courageous action at the expense of their professional careers and personal lives," Geragos expressed in a statement to the NFL Network Insider’s Ian Rapoport in May. "We stand shoulder to shoulder with the NFLPA in our fight for justice, equality and inalienable rights of all Americans."
At the end of April, Reid had an unfruitful free-agent visit with the Cincinnati Bengals, and he filed his grievance the following week, as the safety has made numerous allegations against the NFL, but insists he will not continue his protests.
“Reid has cited his social activism – including kneeling during the national anthem – as reason for him remaining unsigned,” NFL.com noted in May. “Reid has said he does not plan to kneel during the anthem.”
The NFLPA’s filing laid out its complaint against the NFL that month, contending that Reid’s history of kneeling duringthe anthem had essentially blacklisted him from joining a new team.
“[The union alleges] a club appears to have based its decision not to sign a player based on the player's statement that he would challenge the implementation of a club's policy prohibiting demonstration – which is contrary to the League policy, [and that] at least one club owner has asked preemployment interview questions about a player's intent to demonstrate," the NFLPA’s filing reads, according to NFL.com.
The union was quick to congratulate Reid after signing with the Panthers.
“Our union is proud to stand by one of its strongest player leaders, and we congratulate Eric for making it back to doing the job he loves,” the NFLPA expressed in a statement, according to TheBlaze.
Learned his lesson?
From Reid’s reaction to the signing, it appears that he is cooling down his protests in order to resume his career.
“As for Reid – who filed his grievance in May – he was mum during the hoopla on Thursday, declining comment through the Panthers and not weighing in on social media, except to re-tweet Kaepernick,” the AP reported. “The 26-year-old Reid said in March that he doesn’t plan to protest during the national anthem this season. The Panthers have a bye this week and next play at home on Oct. 7 against the New York Giants.”
But his sibling on the Houston Texans said that he looks up to his older brother for taking a knee and possibly sacrificing his career in the NFL, however, he showed some wisdom and restraint when refraining to answer questions delving into the controversial debate.
“Eric Reid’s younger brother, Justin – who plays safety for the Texans – said he is ‘immensely proud’ of what his older brother stands for ‘in trying to have a voice for the voiceless,’” the AP noted. “When asked if he believes his brother was not signed earlier by NFL teams because of his decision to protest, Justin Reid said ‘I’m going to try and defer away from that.’”
Signed for his talent – not his ideals
It appears that the Panthers have hired Reid to improve their team’s performance on the field – not to make a political statement, which many accuse Nike of doing.
“The Panthers had a need at Reid’s position, and he has a record of being a productive young player,” TheBlaze noted. “The team just placed safety Da’Norris Searcy on injured reserve last week after he suffered multiple concussions in a short time, so Reid will likely start immediately.”
Carolina Panthers General Manager Marty Hurney talked about his performance on the field – not on the sidelines – as the reason he was chosen to strengthen his team’s defensive.
“He’s a physical safety with good ball skills and he makes plays and he has experience,” Hurney proclaimed, according to TheBlaze. “He’s a young player with skins on the wall. He has played at a very high level. He comes in and helps make our safety position better.”
It was stressed that Reid’s off-the-gridiron antics had nothing to do with adding him to the team.
“The team emphasized that the decision to sign Reid was strictly a football decision, and did not have anything to do with Reid’s past history with protesting,” TheBlaze’s Aaron Colen informed. “Reid was an All-Pro and All-Rookie player during his rookie season, and last season, he started 12 out of the 13 games he played in.”
Reid’s late signing – after the NFL season already began – is less than three months the Panthers were purchased from its conservative owner Jerry Richardson by David Tepper, who approved the new acquisition.
“Every decision we make we communicate with [Tepper],” Hurney explained, according to AP. “Everybody we sign, we ask if he has the skill set, does he fit into our system, and if he can help us win football games – and we feel the answer is yes.”
Reid is eager to join his new fellow defensive teammates to face off against their opponents – the Washington Redskins – after their bye week.
“Reid is expected to start right away after the Panthers placed starter Da’Norris Searcy on injured reserve last week with a concussion,” the AP noted. “The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Reid played the first five seasons of his NFL career with San Francisco after the 49ers selected him in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft. He has started 69 games.”
What about Kaep?
From the beginning of the controversial NFL anthem protests, Reid was alongside Kaepernick on the sidelines.
“Kaepernick – who filed his grievance in October 2017 and remains a free agent – began protesting racial and social injustice during the 2016 preseason by kneeling during the national anthem,” the AP recounted. “Reid later joined the quarterback. After that, other players around the league joined in – much to the displeasure of President Trump, who tweeted at players to ‘Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!’ That sparked a polarizing political debate that divided some NFL fans.”
Even though virtually all NFL players are no longer taking a knee during the anthem, some have not succumbed to the pressure or taken the ending of Kaepernick’s short career with a grain of salt.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills – who recently knelt during his team’s 2018 season opener against the Tennessee Titans – was unapologetic about celebrating Reid’s return to the NFL.
“I’m just happy for [Reid] – excited to see him get out there on the field and be the impact player we all know he is,” Stills expressed Thursday, according to AP. “Obviously, I feel like he should have been signed the first day of free agency.”
The defiant Dolphin also brought up his close friend, Kaepernick.
“He wants to play,” Stills said of Kaepernick. “He’s good enough to play. He deserves to play. I don’t see why a team won’t sign him or hasn’t signed him.”
Kaepernick ended his last season – riddled with anthem protests – with one of the worst quarterback ratings in the NFL.