The NFL May Be Freezing Out Another Player For Protesting Police Violence
Colin Kaepernick has become a symbol of courage and protest. The former NFL quarterback knelt during the performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” ahead of each game in the 2016 season as a player for the San Francisco 49ers. His actions were a demonstration against oppression, especially the non-conviction and non-action against police officers who wrongfully killed Black civilians.
While still in office, President Obama viewed Kaepernick’s demonstration as a constitutional right. Even as his playing time diminished during a frustrating season for the team, the #7 Niners jersey rose to be the best-selling at the time for the league. In a culture that (sometimes retroactively) celebrates outside-the-lines activists like Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown, Kap’ appeared to be the next sports folk hero.
After becoming a free agent by contract after the ’16 season, Kap’ did not play in 2017. No NFL team was willing to offer the Super Bowl veteran playing a job, even as a backup. This transpired even after Colin Kaepernick stated on record that he planned to stand for the anthem for the 2017 season, considering his mission for better awareness accomplished. In a year when several teams needed emergency quarterback additions during the season, Kaepernick remained an activist but did so without lacing up. GQ magazine named him “Citizen Of 2017,” and Amnesty International gave Colin their highest award. Currently, Kap’ and his legal team are deposing league officials (including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell) as a result of a formal grievance filed against the league last year. It charges that franchise owners may have colluded against signing him, due to growing public and corporate push-back.
Eric Reid was the first Niners teammate to kneel beside Colin Kaepernick. A safety for the team (who played up to three positions for the team), Reid knelt throughout the 2017 season that Colin Kaepernick missed. The 2013 Pro Bowl elected player and Baton Rouge, Louisiana native now appears to be facing similar consequences.
At 26 years old with no signs of any health concerns, Eric Reid is a free agent who is not signed. Some fans could argue that compared to Colin Kaepernick after the 2016 season (which ended with him losing his starting job), Reid is even more in-demand and turnkey for play. Even though Reid has said he would not kneel this year, The Washington Post states that so far only the Cincinnati Bengals interviewed Reid this off-season. “It didn’t go well,” John Feinstein reports. “Bengals owner Mike Brown reportedly asked Reid if he could guarantee he wouldn’t continue to protest, and, when Reid said he couldn’t do that, the interview quickly ended.” Previously, the 1st Round pick out of Louisiana State University declared, “I’m not saying I’m going to stop being active, because I won’t. I’m just going to consider different ways to be active.”
As a result of the poor interview in Cincy, the NFL Players Association filed a grievance against the league, due to the questioning on ownership’s part over-stepping. The NFL has no rule against protesting. Meanwhile, like Kaep’, Reid is filing his own claim opposing the league.
In October, league owners and players met in the midst of the season, following Donald Trump’s deriding of player-protesters, for a three-hour summit meeting with players and owners sitting side-by-side at a round-table. The New York Times acquired a recording of the urgent meeting that Roger Goodell urged to keep confidential. Eric Reid attended that meeting, wearing a Colin Kaepernick t-shirt over his dress-shirt and tie.
There, Reid spoke to owners and looked them in the eye. “I feel like [Colin Kaepernick] was hung out to dry…Everyone in here is talking about how much they support us.” The Times‘ By Ken Belson and Mark Leibovich report that the bustling room got especially quiet after that remark. “Nobody stepped up and said we support Colin’s right to do this. We all let him become Public Enemy #1 in this country, and he still doesn’t have a job.”
The next to speak was reported Buffalo Bills owner Tom Pegula, who motioned the league for a spokesman, a former player, and importantly (in his words), Black. He compared the media tactics of the NRA used Charlton Heston as its front-facing figure for years.
Bob McNair, the owner of the Houston Texans who controversially compared his employees to “inmates” last season, felt it was the players’ responsibility to fix the problem first. “You fellas need to ask your compadres, fellas, stop that other business, let’s go out and do something that really produces positive results, and we’ll help you.” While owners such as New England Patriots’ CEO Robert Kraft and Philadelphia Eagles’ president Jeffrey Lurie expressed concerns of more backlash from Trump surrounding kneeling and protests. Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shadid Khan said,“All the damage Trump’s going to do is done.”
With months left in the ’17 season, little changed after that meeting, in New York City, in Washington, and in the offices of the league’s 32 teams. Colin Kaepernick did not play. Now, Eric Reid’s decorated career appears to be on the line as the pre-season begins in a few short months.
The Post‘s Feinstein, a celebrated author of 36 books and sports reporter, concludes his editorial with these words: “In all likelihood, [Eric] Reid won’t be signed. The owners will anonymously claim to various co-opted media members that he’s not the player he used to be — just as they did with Kaepernick. And the controversy will continue. As it should. Being rich doesn’t mean you’re smart, honest or fair. It just means you’re rich.”