When former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, took a knee and turned his promising NFL career into a social justice battle cry, he was not alone… even though most people seem to forget that. Kneeling next to him was former 49ers safety Eric Reid.
Now, Reid too is out of the league, and he’s filed a lawsuit against the NFL, claiming the league ownership is “colluding” against him. The NFL Player’s Union is supporting Reid in the matter.
While NFL careers can by notoriously short due to a variety of reasons, it was pretty clear to anyone paying any attention, that the reason both Kaepernick and Reid were no longer on NFL teams had nothing to do with what was happening on the field. Millions of fans were fed up with the anthem protests, and the NFL was hurting. Sales were down, attendance was down, and TV viewership was down. Despite their talent, teams did not want these players – and the distraction they brought with them – on their rosters.
Reid, a 2013 Pro Bowler, did manage to last about a year longer than Kaepernick in the league, but when he became a free agent, no teams picked him up. The Player’s Union issued the following statement on the matter:
“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.”
So, will the NFL Player’s Union sue on behalf of Eric Reid? Way too early to know one way or another on that regard, but there is some precedent which could help show what might happen to the current grievance. Kaepernick filed a similar collusion grievance that, so far, hasn’t really gone anywhere. League officials say it’s in the “discovery stage.”
Attorneys for Kaepernick have interviewed NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, as well as several owners and other team executives. The League, though, has officially offered a “no comment” on the matter. Not that this has kept people from asking why Reid doesn’t have a job.
This very question was posed to Goodell recently, and the Commissioner was not having it: “I’ve said this repeatedly, the 32 teams make individual decisions on the players who are going to best help their franchises… Those are decisions they have to make. They do that every day in the best interest of winning. Teams make those decisions. I’m not directly involved with that.”
Bottom line, though, to most people that the reason both players are watching the game rather than preparing for training camp has to do with the drama that would come with signing them. The lesson: standing up for what you believe in is fine… but it will have consequences, and you need to have a strong PR message in place to respond to the blowback.
Ronn Torossian is the CEO of 5WPR