Eric Reid resumed his NFL career Sunday, and he again took a knee during the playing of the national anthem.
Explaining his decision to kneel, Reid said after the game that he believes the country has “made no progress” in terms of social justice. “We’ve made baby steps, but people try to give crumbs and present them as cakes,” he said (via the Charlotte Observer). “So you can come at me with all the hate you want, but it doesn’t change the fact of the truth.
“I’ve always been considering what’s best for the movement,” Reid continued. “I’ve always told myself when the time comes to stop kneeling that I’ll stop — that time has not come.”
Reid made headlines along with former San Francisco 49ers teammate Colin Kaepernick when both knelt during the anthem to raise awareness of social injustice and police brutality during the 2016 season. Reid continued to play for the 49ers last season — and continued to kneel — then parted with them in the offseason. He remained unsigned until he reached a one-year deal with the Panthers two weeks ago.
He was back on the field for the first time in nine months Sunday as Carolina defeated the New York Giants, 33-31.
Last week, Reid refused to say what his plans for the anthem were, but he wore a black shirt that read “#IMWITHKAP” when he met with the media. Kaepernick remains unsigned and, like Reid, has filed a grievance against the NFL, alleging collusion to keep them and their demonstrations out of the league.
“I just wanted to give him a hug, offer some support to him, and let him know that he wasn’t isolated out there,” Peppers said of Reid. “Obviously he’s a great player — he adds that to our team. He also adds a sense of culture to the team, and we’re embracing that, and we’re going to support him in everything he chooses to do.”
Asked about Reid’s protest, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton replied, “How did he play?”
“I mean, that’s all the things that I really care about,” Newton added. “We all are entitled to our own opinion, and as a man that he is, anything that he stands for, as a teammate, I’m going to stand with him, too."
Reid said his decision to kneel was shaped by learning that morning that “the officer that killed Tamir Rice was rehired.” Saying he found Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation as a Supreme Court justice to be “unacceptable,” the 26-year-old told reporters, “I feel like our country is moving backward, and the only way to change that is to keep talking about it, to keep raising awareness. Keep doing what we’re doing.”
The sight of Reid on his knee is an image that has receded from the headlines, with demonstrations by others, such as the Miami Dolphins' Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson, receiving far less attention than in the past two seasons. Other players have raised a fist or sat during the anthem, but their demonstrations have been met largely by silence, including from President Trump. His sharp comments on players one year ago catapulted their protests into a national issue, turned many fans against the league, spurred more players to demonstrate and caused many owners to react with a mixture of anger and angst.
“I think the greatest act of patriotism is to work to make your country better,” the New Orleans Saints' Demario Davis, whose father served in the Army, said recently. “Any effort that anyone is doing is important. Everybody has a voice, and everybody has a responsibility to do something.”
“We have to stay strong, we have to stay diligent, to make sure that that narrative doesn’t change,” Reid said Sunday. “We, as a country, have fallen short.
“Emmett Till, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Alton Sterling — the list goes on. It’s unacceptable,” he added. “And I can’t close my eyes and go to sleep at night without feeling like I did something to try to make those things better.”
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