SEABROOK – Even though NFL players can kneel to protest social injustice and police brutality prior to the start of games this season without being fined or suspended, the NFL and National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) are still attempting to renegotiate the new National Anthem Rule.
Coming into week 9 of the regular season, a decision has still not been made about the polarizing rule to force players into their locker rooms if they do not stand during a rendition of the National Anthem before matches.
Up to this point, a handful of players have knelt before games including Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid, who was one of the first players to unite with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick by protesting in back in 2016.
A lot has changed for the two since then, including Kaepernick signing a lucrative deal with Nike to promote the “Just Do It” campaign.
That deal includes donating proceeds from his apparel line to the “Know Your Rights” campaign whose purpose is “to fight oppression of all kinds globally, through education and social activism.”
Reid had a second chance to play in the NFL when he was signed in November to play for the Panthers in which he continued to follow Kaepernick’s path.
With Kaepernick receiving mixed responses for profiting off of his brand and message, Reid felt the same about a player who supports Kaepernick’s movement before a regular season match against the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 21.
He almost got into a physical confrontation with Eagles defensive back Malcolm Jenkins who too was a trailblazer in continuing Kaepernick’s message.
However, after the game when asked about being physically separated from a verbal and potentially physical altercation with Jenkins, Reid explained why he took his actions to that level.
“He’s a sellout,” Reid said of Jenkins in the locker room. “His actions speak louder than words. I believe Malcolm capitalized on the situation. He co-opted the movement that was started by Colin to get his organization funded. It’s cowardly. He sold us out.”
Jenkins stopped raising his fist in protest after The Players Coalition accepted a reported $89 million agreement in conjunction with NFLPA over seven years to projects dealing with criminal justice reform, law enforcement/community relations and education.
Reid claims that Jenkins is a sellout for taking those actions; however, prior to being signed by Carolina earlier this season, the standout defensive player changed his tune and said that he would consider stopping kneeling while in search of a job.
“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 to improve on,” Reid told NBC Sports.
“I don’t think it’ll be in the form of protesting during the anthem. And I said ‘during’ because it’s crazy to me that the narrative got changed to we were protesting the anthem because that wasn’t the case. But I think we’re going to take a different approach to how to be active.”
One could argue that pandering to NFL teams in order to earn a paycheck by wavering a decision to kneel before games are disingenuous and hypocritical while trying to socially castrate Jenkins who in actuality provided resources to people in need who will benefit from the funds such as Kaepernick did with the Nike campaign at a large scale.
Kaepernick praised Jenkins on social media for carrying the metaphorical torch against inequality and social injustice.
“My Brother @E_Reid35, with @KSTiLLS and @iThinkIsee12, continue to take a knee against systemic oppression,” Kaepernick said on Twitter. “They are unwavering in their conviction! #ImWithReid.”
Whether the populous agrees that Kaepernick is a sellout or not for profiting on a clothing line, Nike has been selling out their stock and has already made $6 billion from his ad marketing campaign.
Like Jenkins, Kaepernick is providing resources to continue his message which makes me scratch my head at what Reid specifically wants and where his alliance lies.
Kaepernick recently completed his Million Dollar Pledge, where he donated $1,000,000 of his own money to 37 different organizations fighting for justice such as Assata’s Daughters, Standing Rock, United We Dream and more.
He also rallied the support of his friends like Kobe Bryant, Serena Williams, Alicia Keys, Steph Curry, Zendaya and 25 more to match his donations and raised almost an additional $400,000 for these organizations to continue their work on the ground in the communities according to his website.
If Reid would consider to not kneeling in protest to earn a paycheck, wouldn’t that make him a sellout? Or even more importantly, how would that make him any more different from the man he follows or Jenkins for that matter who are providing people more than social currency.
His own teammate and former University of Maryland star Torrey Smith continuously contributes to the community with his Torrey Smith Family Fund providing youth with the tools they need to identify, unleash and reach their full potential.
Smith and Jenkins were on the same team that won the Super Bowl last year and were not invited to The White House by President of the United States Donald Trump even though they did not kneel at all during the championship season due to a disagreement about disrespecting the flag.
My question to Mr. Reid is what have Kaepernick and Jenkins done wrong? If actions are louder than words, it takes more than a knee hitting the ground to spark a change.
I appreciate his sticktoitiveness in him believing and continuing the message, and I don’t fault him for considering taking a different approach other than kneeling to continue it, but how can you fault two people with the same vision essentially who are taking the same actions?
Although Reid was very vocal and not taking “new money” from the NFL owners “goal to end all protests,” Jenkins insisted he would stop as long as the NFL would come to terms with the league and Kaepernick took a similar path with Nike and still delivered his message without trying to save face by contemplating to stop protesting during the National Anthem.
It has been months since the National Anthem Rule has been under construction in talks about a possible revision of the rule. In a waiting game that has many twists and turns along the way and the term “sellout” being thrown around effortlessly, the NFL and NFLPA have been performing a silent protest of their own leaving the future and status of the rule in question.