Eli Harold and Eric Reid kneel during the anthem in November 2017. November 5, 2017; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Eli Harold (57) and strong safety Eric Reid (35) kneel during the national anthem before the game against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Days after free agent safety Eric Reid filed a collusion grievance against the NFL implying he had been blacklisted due to his high-profile protests during the national anthem before games, the NFL Players Association has rallied behind him.

The NFLPA announced Monday it has filed a separate grievance on Reid’s behalf, alleging at least one team has declined to sign him due to his activism. In a release, the union laid out its case like this:

– 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 any conflicting club rules.

– According to our information, a club appears to have based its decision not to sign a player based 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.

In other words, the NFLPA has reason to believe that at least one team decided not to sign Reid because his protests would violate team rules, while at least one owner has asked questions during the free-agent process that the union believes to have been improper. The NFLPA is likely referring to a report from Pro Football Talk that Bengals owner Mike Brown quizzed Reid about his intention to kneel during the national anthem next season.

It seems notable that the union is not alleging collusion, as Reid is, but instead going after a specific team for discriminating against Reid because of his protests.

Reid remains unsigned nearly two months into the free agency period, despite being universally considered one of the better safeties on the market — and in the NFL as a whole. The leading explanation for his continued unemployment is that he has been, along with the similarly jobless Colin Kaepernick, among the most prominent (and stubborn) NFL player protestors over the past two seasons.


About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports, MLB.com, SI.com and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.