Veteran safety Eric Reid has filed a grievance against the NFL, charging owners with colluding to keep him unemployed while other free agents are finding work this offseason. Reid has said that his decision to protest during the national anthem is the reason teams are steering clear of him.
Reid, a former Pro Bowler, has been among the most prominent football players to kneel during the anthem, as a form of protest against racial injustice and police brutality. Even after Colin Kaepernick failed to find work last season, Reid continued taking a knee as a member of the 49ers.
Though he’s expressed a willingness to stand during the anthem this season, Reid remains unsigned nearly two months into free agency.
“Our union is aware that Eric Reid and his legal representatives filed a collusion claim, which will be heard through the arbitration process as spelled out in our collective bargaining agreement. Our union supports Eric and we are considering other legal options to pursue,” an NFL Players Association spokesman said in a statement.
Reid becomes the second NFL player to file a grievance alleging collusion in response to the anthem protests. Kaepernick’s complaint is in the discovery phase and the former quarterback has already deposed several league owners and front-office officials, including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Reid is using the same attorneys as Kaepernick, Los Angeles-based Mark Geragos and Ben Meiselas.
The NFL declined to comment through a spokesman, citing the confidentially clause of the CBA regarding such a grievance.
Kaepernick addressed Reid’s continued unemployment speaking last month at the Amnesty International Honors in Amsterdam, where Reid presented his former teammate with an award.
“Eric introducing me for this prestigious award brings me great joy,” Kaepernick said. “But I am also pained by the fact that his taking a knee, and demonstrating courage to protect the rights of black and brown people in America, has also led to his ostracization from the NFL when he is widely recognized as one of the best competitors in the game and in the prime of his career.”
The 26-year old Reid has been a starter in 69 of the 70 NFL games he’s played since the 49ers made him a first-round draft pick in 2013.
While Kaepernick has drawn the bulk of the attention - not to mention President Donald Trump’s ire - for his decision to protest, Reid was alongside him throughout the 2016 regular season.
“We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture,” Reid explained in an op-ed published last September in The New York Times. “I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.”
Particularly since Kaepernick failed to land a job and had to sit out last season, Reid has emerged as a vocal and visible leader for the protesting players, continually explaining why they were taking a knee and what they were protesting.
“This is not about the military,” he told reporters following one game last season, “this is not about the flag, this is not about the anthem. My mother served in the armed forces. Three of my uncles served in the armed forces. In fact, my mom would have went to the Persian Gulf War if she wasn’t pregnant with me.
“I have the utmost respect for the military, for the anthem, for the flag. So I will say that every time y’all interview me. This is about systemic oppression that has been rampant in this country for decades on top of decades. And I will continue to say and encourage people to educate themselves of how we got to where are today, because it didn’t happen overnight. And it’s not going to happen overnight to fix these issues, so we’re going to keep talking about it.”