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Many that watch the NFL are consumed with the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft which begins on April 28th. While you weren’t looking the NFL has been escalating their punishment on players that sat for the National Anthem and will still not commit to standing for the anthem.
Indeed, Colin Kaepernick has become a household name for starting this movement. He has been praised by those concerned with social justice, and rightfully so. What Kaepernick has done is courageous, but do we know of his former teammate Eric Reid?
Reid was the first person to kneel along side of Kaepernick during the National Anthem in the 2016 season.
We can talk about Reid, the community man, that holds a golf tournament every year to benefit the Baton Rouge Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation. Or Reid the man in 2017, during the last year of his contract, penned an op-ed in the New York Timesdefending Kaepernick and their stance on kneeling for the National Anthem. Or Reid the man that continued to kneel for the National Anthem in 2017, knowing the NFL was blackballing Kaepernick at the time.
These are all things that make Reid a man with conviction, but let’s focus on Reid the football player. He wasn’t some long shot to make an NFL roster. He was the 18th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. He went to a powerhouse college football school, Louisiana State University. He’s only 26 years old, not even in the prime of his career, and he’s unemployed.
First round picks in the NFL are expected to be impact players for their team, they are expected to be above average in their position compared to their peers at the same position across the league.
The thing is Reid has met expectations. He was named to the 2013 Pro Bowl. The football analytic site, Pro Football Focus, graded out his 2017 season at 81.4 which is above average play. The NFL’s own website ranked him as the 27th out of the 101 best free agents to sign in the offseason.
You can see why this is slightly different than Kaepernick. After the 2016 season there were questions as to if Kaepernick had what it takes to play Quarterback as the 49ers hobbled into the 2016 offseason with a two win, fourteen loss season. No one is questioning Reid’s ability to play football especially after the 49ers ended their 2017 on a high note winning six of their last sevengames.
So why hasn’t Reid been signed by a team to play professional football? Is it because of his anthem protests that the league is dying to move on from? Yes. Is it also because Reid has not fully committed to standing for the National Anthem? Yes, and here’s where it gets more interesting.
In April, Reid had a free agency visit with the Cincinnati Bengals, Reid was asked by ownership if he intends to sit for the anthem because ownership would be prohibiting kneeling during the anthem. Reid wasn’t willing to make a commitment on the spot and so it goes Reid left the Bengals facility without a contract offer. And there hasn’t been a peep from another team interested in signing a 26-year-old above average safety.
When confronting systemic injustices that center on white supremacy, we on the left talk about standing in solidarity. We do this on countless occasions for those being oppressed and controlled by the system. We do it for people that have no face and no name, we know their story but we may not know their name.
When you read this hopefully you not only have a name but hopefully you will see the face of a man that is willing to sacrifice fame and fortune for morals and principles.
He may not be the most attention getting position in all of sports, Quarterback, but he’s a Free Safety. Free Safeties are the last line of defense in the game of football. It’s their job to make sure no offensive players get through them to score a touchdown.
Reid is playing this position in the game of life. Right now he may be a our last line of defense to keeping the conversation of police brutality and racial injustice going when football games are played. It’s time we recognize this and support him.