Wearing a black T-shirt with the tag #IMWITHKAP, recently signed Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid said Monday he’s still weighing whether he will resume his protests of social inequality and racial injustice by kneeling during the pregame playing of the national anthem.
“I said I would be considering other ways and I’m still considering,” Reid said.
New Panthers owner David Tepper, whose purchase of the team became official in July, has not yet met Reid.
“Not before I signed,” Reid said when asked if any members from the organization asked about any potential protest plans. “But I’ve talked to a couple of people about it. As I said, I’m still evaluating the scope of our country, and I’ll make that decision later.”
Reid spoke with the media for the first time since reaching a one-year contract with the Panthers last Thursday, but he declined to offer details about how the deal with Carolina materialized.
“Those circumstances have to do with my case,” Reid said of an ongoing collusion grievance against the NFL that alleges team owners intentionally denied him employment due to his public stance on social justice issues. “So you’d have to talk to my lawyers about that.”
Reid added that he intends to keep the collusion case moving forward “without a doubt.”
When asked about his split from the Players Coalition, an organization led by a group of current and former NFL players who promote various issues for social equality, Reid criticized the organization’s motives.
“The Players Coalition is an NFL-funded subversion group,” he said. “So that’s why I removed myself from them and I will keep moving forward with Colin (Kaepernick).”
In May, the Players Coalition and the NFL agreed to a partnership in which the league plegedge to provide at least $90 million to support causes championed by the coalition.
Reid said he has received “a ton of support” from Kaepernick, his former San Francisco 49ers teammate and friend who in August 2016 protested police brutality and racial inequality by kneeling during the anthem. Kaepernick remains unsigned after being out of the league all of last year. He also has a separate ongoing collusion case against NFL owners.
“As we said when we started, Colin and I, nothing will change unless we talk about it,” Reid said. “So we’re going to continue to hold America to the standard it says on paper, that we’re all created equal, cause it’s not that way right now, but we’re going to keep pushing towards that.”
Reid acknowledged that the 49ers, the team that drafted him in 2013 and for which he played five seasons, had also recently offered him a contract. Ultimately, Reid said the Panthers “had a better offer.”
Still, Reid acknowledged that he underwent a long period of uncertainty after he went through free agency without much interest from NFL teams. Reid, however, said the social issues he’s addressing remain important to him.
“I’ll put it this way,” Reid said. “Next year will be 2019. It will mark 400 years since the first slaves touched the soil in this country. That’s 400 years of systemic oppression. That’s slavery, Jim Crow, new Jim Crow, mass incarceration, you name it. The Great Depression, they come out with the New Deal and black people didn’t have access to those government stimulus packages.
“The New Deal set up what is known as the modern-day middle class. We didn’t have access to those programs, the G.I. Bill, Social Security, home loans, none of that. So this has been happening since my people have gotten here. So I just felt the need to say something about it.”
Reid, 26, didn’t specifically say whether he expects the Panthers to provide support for his causes, but insisted that he will continue to promote efforts in various communities across the country.
“There’s going to be opposition when you’re speaking on some of these topics that I’m speaking on,” Reid said. “But I’m black in America. I grew up black in America. You can’t tell me that what I’ve experienced and what I’ve seen is not true.”
Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.