A bittersweet moment for the Movement for Black Lives took place on Thursday when it was announced that the Carolina Panthers have signed free agent Eric Reid.
Reid, 26, is a former Pro Bowler who can play some five positions on defense, yet he remained a free agent because he was the second person to kneel alongside Colin Kaepernick to protest the unjust shootings of unarmed black men, women and children by police, when both were members of the San Francisco 49ers.
The NFL could make no football case as to why Reid, a player in the prime of his career, was not a member of an NFL team. Reid had joined Kaepernick in a lawsuit filed against the league, arguing that owners colluded to keep both men off the field.
Today’s announcement, while amazing for Reid and the Carolina Panthers, is surely a blow to Kaepernick’s collusion argument and an opportunity for the NFL to say: “See we hired at least one of them!”
The signing doesn’t mean that Reid will be giving up his collusion grievance, as sports-law expert Michael McCann wrote in Sports Illustrated.
“Collusion doesn’t necessitate a leaguewide conspiracy,” McCann wrote. “It only takes two or more teams, or the league and one team, colluding. It would be plausible for two teams to conspire against Reid and then a third team signed him.”
The reality is that Reid should have never been out of football and the 2-1 Panthers are in need of defensive backfield help as are a few other teams who refused to pull the trigger on signing him.
Reid may have Carolina wide receiver Torrey Smith to thank for his signing as he publicly lobbied for Reid to be apart of the team.
“Eric Reid is a Pro Bowl caliber safety, 26 years old, with a first-round pedigree,” Smith told the Charlotte Observer. “And he’s one of the best men that I know. I know that teams obviously have to be interested in him, and honestly, with our injuries, I hope he ends up here.
“I know how he is, his talent. If it’s something where [General Manager Marty Hurney or Coach Ron Rivera] come and talk to me about him, I’ll be glad to talk about him as a player and as a person,” Smith added. “He’s one of the best men that I’ve been around. I hope that’s something that can happen for us, because I know with the injuries that we have he could help this team.”
According to the Washington Post, Reid noted in March that he wouldn’t take a knee during the national anthem when he returned to the field and would instead raise awareness for social justice causes in other ways.
“We understand you have to change with the times,” Reid told reporters then. “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, different ways to bring awareness to the issues of this country and improve on the issues happening in this country. I don’t think it will be in the form of protesting during the anthem. I say ‘during,’ because it’s crazy that the narrative changed to we were protesting the anthem, and that wasn’t the case. I think we’re going to take a different approach to how we’re going to be active.”
The Post notes that the Panthers’ new owner, billionaire businessman David Tepper, was a supporter of the NFL protests.
“These are some of the most patriotic people and best people,” he told USA Today. “These are great young men. So to say that [they aren’t patriotic] makes me so aggravated and angry. It’s just wrong, it’s dead wrong.”
Kaepernick not only remains unsigned, but he may have lost his strongest argument for collusion. Reid being signed was bound to happen, but the case for Kaepernick joining a team is getting smaller and smaller.