WASHINGTON — The NFL has earned another public relations black eye for blackballing another of their black athletes for reasons that have nothing to do with football.
Eric Reid, a 26-year-old former Pro Bowl safety with the San Francisco 49ers, remains on the free agent market despite a solid resume. While the position he plays is a factor, it’s pretty glaring that a young, versatile player — he played a hybrid safety/linebacker position his last year with the Niners — associated with Colin Kaepernick’s silent resistance in 2016 is still without a job.
While last offseason featured the argument over whether Kaepernick’s unemployment had more to do with his game than his anthem stance, there shouldn’t be such debate over Reid. He’s graded as a solid starter, registering 264 tackles, 10 interceptions, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in 70 games. An experienced, multifaceted player in his prime with these numbers not getting a sniff from NFL teams is fuel for collusion claims.
Speaking of which … Kaepernick’s collusion case is growing stronger by the day. He hasn’t played a down of NFL football since New Year’s Day 2017 and hasn’t generated interest outside of Baltimore’s clumsy flirtation last offseason. The Ravens signing Robert Griffin III — who is unquestionably polarizing and rife with off-field drama for way more reason than Kaepernick — all but makes the case for him. But, I digress.
Reid and Kenny Vaccaro, another NFL safety with a history of kneeling during the national anthem, are too good to still be on the market. Like Reid, Vaccaro was a talented first round pick in 2013, and while he had a more up-and-down five-year career in New Orleans, it’s notable Vaccaro’s market remains dormant.
Like Eric Reid, Kenny Vaccaro was aware of the fact that his support of Colin Kaepernick, and his own protesting of police killing unarmed Black folks with impunity, could cost him during free agency.
— L E F T, PhD (@LeftSentThis) April 3, 2018
Compared to the top strong safeties to get good contracts this offseason, Reid is younger and probably better. Tyrann Mathieu has a bad injury history (as his short-but-lucrative deal would attest). Morgan Burnett and Kurt Coleman are good, but the former isn’t as versatile as Reid and the latter wasn’t nearly as impactful in 2017.
None of those three safeties were seen kneeling during the national anthem, though.
Nor did they stand up for social justice in the way Reid has. That’s not a knock on those players, but rather a statement that a bunch of petty NFL owners continue to hold grudges against players that align themselves with causes that don’t directly benefit them.
GMs aren’t the hold up broski. It’s ownership. People who know football know who can play. People who know me, know my character. https://t.co/M9ULziZg5V
— Eric Reid (@E_Reid35) March 16, 2018
Nobody feels more threatened by black voices shedding light on social injustice than the rich men who benefit from it. As I’ve said previously, Reid and Vaccaro kneeling is in no way disrespectful. But Roseanne Barr’s infamous rendition of the national anthem certainly was, and 28 years later I’m still waiting to hear the same level of outrage for that obvious mockery of the flag that NFL players presently get for respectfully and silently kneeling.
Like Kaepernick, Reid is championing social justice while preparing for a call from an NFL team that may never come because of it. What makes these men special is that either way, they’re ready — and either way they win.
My brother, @E_Reid35 continues to train like the Elite Probowl safety he is! Keep an eye on him, as he goes through free agency as someone who continues to fight against systemic oppression! #ImWithEric pic.twitter.com/hwPe08Pr5U
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) April 3, 2018