On Monday, the NFLPA announced it had filed a grievance with the NFL on behalf of former NFL safety Eric Reid. In the NFLPA’s statement was a line in reference to his free agent visit with the Bengals — who weren’t mentioned by name — which included discussions about his intentions to kneel during the national anthem.
Last Wednesday, Reid filed a collusion grievance against the NFL, so this is the next step as the NFLPA now is getting involved. This is the same type of case that Reid’s former 49ers teammate, Colin Kaepernick, filed against the NFL in November.
The NFLPA has filed a non-injury grievance and a system arbitrator case on behalf of free agent safety Eric Reid. Prior to the start of the current NFL off-season, our Union directed the agents of free agent players who had participated in peaceful on-field demonstrations to collect, memorialize and report any relevant information about potential violations of the Collective Bargaining Agreement by teams. These cases were filed based upon the following:
- There is no League rule that prohibits players from demonstrating during the national anthem.
- The NFL has made it clear both publicly and to the NFLPA that they would respect the rights of players to demonstrate.
- The Collective Bargaining Agreement definitively states that League (NFL) rules supersede anyconflicting club rules.
- According to our information, a club appears to have based its decision not to sign a playerbased on the player’s statement that he would challenge the implementation of a club’s policy prohibiting demonstration, which is contrary to the League policy.
- At least one club owner has asked preemployment interview questions about a player’s intent to demonstrate. We believe these questions are improper, given League policy.
Our Union continues to monitor these developments.
The part in bold is what specifically ties the Bengals into this situation, as the Bengals allegedly discussed with Reid his intention to kneel during the national anthem during a free agent visit this year.
To recap, the Bengals hosted Reid for a visit in in April, where owner Mike Brown allegedly discussed with Reid his intentions surrounding the national anthem. Brown allegedly, per Pro Football Talk, plans to prohibit kneeling during the anthem.
Reid would leave the visit without a contract offer, and no NFL team has yet to sign him. Reid is a quality starting safety, so it’s very odd to see no other teams showing interest. Perhaps Reid does have a real case to be made against the NFL colluding not to sign him for his protesting. At least, that’s what Reid and his legal team are hoping to prove with this grievance.
Kaepernick’s legal team, Mark Geragos and Ben Meiselas released the following statement to SB Nation:
“Colin and Eric have taken courageous action at the expense of their professional careers and personal lives. They did these selfless acts because they wanted to shine light on inequity and oppression. Today they welcome all NFL Players who have joined in the prosecution of the NFL for their conspiracy and illegal acts. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the NFLPA in our fight for justice, equality and inalienable rights of all Americans”
Fans will remember Reid from the 2013 NFL Draft as someone that was being touted as a potential target for the Bengals. He was regarded as one of the top defensive back prospects after a standout career at LSU, and he wound up going 18th overall to the 49ers, three picks before the Bengals took Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert.
Reid would enjoy a great start to his NFL career, as he became one of the NFL’s better safeties. He’s more than earned the right to sign a lucrative multi-year deal with an NFL team. The fact that he hasn’t is a big reason why this grievance has come to light.
This issue is not going away and now, the Bengals are involved.
To learn more about the case, what it means and what could happen going forward, here is some recommended further reading: A law professor explains why it’ll be ‘a bitch’ for Eric Reid to prove NFL collusion.
Additionally, PFT wrote about whether teams can make hiring/firing decisions based on protests in regards to the anthem, which you can read here (h/t dturn).
Editor’s note: This should go without saying, but please keep the comments section respectful!