Hey, it worked out pretty well for Kaepernick in the end, right? After all, he was invited to Amsterdam to receive a social justice award from Amnesty International. And now, according to the NFL Players Association (PA), his similarly unemployed (at the moment) friend Eric Reid is filing the same sort of grievance suit against the league. Not having been picked up by any of the league’s teams, Reid will be accusing the NFL of conspiring to keep him silent. (Associated Press)
The NFL players’ union has filed a non-injury grievance on behalf of free agent safety Eric Reid.
The NFLPA cites one team appearing “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” during the national anthem.
League policy does not prohibit demonstrating during the anthem. Referring to the labor agreement with the league, the union notes that NFL rules supersede any conflicting club rules.
The union also says “at least one club owner has asked pre-employment interview questions about a player’s intent to demonstrate. We believe these questions are improper, given league policy.”
The club in question is the Cincinnati Bengals. They’ve instituted a rule against protests during the playing of the National Anthem while supporting the players’ decisions if they wish to protest off the field. They also interviewed Reid and allegedly have been asking all of the players they audition whether or not they will stand for the Anthem. This has led Reid and his union to conclude that he’s being discriminated against, silenced or however you wish to describe it.
One other curious aspect of the suit is that the PA is claiming that since the NFL doesn’t have a rule against protesting, they take precedence in the event of “conflicting club rules.” Does that really make any sense? It would be a conflict if the league had a rule saying clubs must allow players to protest. But the NFL doesn’t take any official position on the question (much to the chagrin of many fans) so how can there be a conflict?
Reid does provide a more interesting example of teams passing on potentially troublesome players when compared to Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick was putting up some fairly mediocre numbers in his final season before heading to the unemployment line. Not horrible by any means, but also not the sort of performances he delivered at the top of his game. Reid, on the other hand, was still one of the better defensive players at his position. In his final season with the 49ers he managed 53 tackles, 14 assists and two interceptions. That was better than his previous season and he’s only 26 and still in pretty solid health.
But NFL teams have a lot of people to pick from and good stats are only one factor. Given how many hungry young players are out there looking for a starting spot it’s rather amazing that Reid thinks he can force a team to take him. They don’t need the flack from the fans and the bad headlines caused by these protests and if the Bengals want to forgo that it’s a business decision they’ll have to make. I can’t wait to see what happens to both of these cases in arbitration.