CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Eric Reid isn’t planning on giving up his fight against racial injustice in America or his battle with the NFL.
He just doesn’t know if his protests against injustice will include kneeling for the national anthem. Reid, who signed a one-year contract last week with Carolina, said Monday he is “still considering other ways” to protest and continue to raise awareness.
The former Pro Bowl safety did not elaborate on his plans, but did say he will not drop his grievance against the NFL that alleges teams colluded to keep him out of the league because he protested alongside Colin Kaepernick.
“Nothing will ever change unless you talk about it. So we’re going to continue to talk about it,” Reid said of his ongoing fight for racial justice with his friend Kaepernick, who remains unsigned. “We’re going to continue to hold America to the standards that it says on paper — that we’re all created equal. Because it’s not that way right now. But we’re going to keep pushing toward that.”
Reid said the Panthers didn’t ask him about his protest plans until after he signed.
He has spoken with members of the Panthers’ organization about his beliefs on racial injustice, but said he is “still evaluating the scope of our country and will make that decision later.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera reiterated signing Reid was a “football decision.”
Rivera, who is Hispanic and was raised in a military family, expressed his views on standing for the national anthem in September of 2017, telling his players “if we’re all going to be united, we need to stand, look at the flag, be at attention, our left hand down at our side and right hand at our heart. We need to look at the flag and listen to the national anthem. We need to think and envision an America that we believe in that is free from injustice, free from bigotry and free from prejudice.”
Rivera said Monday that he has spoken with Reid and they had a “nice conversation” and that “I think he has a feel for us and we feel pretty good about it.”
Reid said he was surprised when the Panthers called last week, saying he thought it would take much longer to get a second chance at the NFL.
He said the San Francisco 49ers also offered him a chance to play last week, but that the Panthers’ offer was better.
Reid returned to the field Monday for the first time since Dec. 31, 2017, when he finished the season with the San Francisco 49ers before becoming a free agent. Despite starting 69 games in the NFL, Reid didn’t receive any attention in free agency and filed a grievance in May alleging collusion by NFL teams for not signing him because of his decision to protest racial injustice during the national anthem.
Reid would not discuss details of collusion grievance against the NFL because the case is ongoing, but when asked if he will continue to pursue it, he replied, “Without a doubt, yeah.”
He is expected to start on Sunday against the New York Giants.
Reid knows he will continue to face opposition by standing up to racial injustice, not unlike what he and Kaepernick experienced here in Charlotte while playing against the Panthers on Sept. 18, 2016. At that time some fans seated in the lower bowl of the stadium gave Reid and Kaepernick a hard time about their protests — similar to what he heard in other stadiums around the country.
“There’s always opposition when you speak on topics like I’m speaking on, but I’m a black man in America,” Reid said. “You can’t tell me what I’ve experienced and what I’ve seen is not true.”
That game in 2016 came two days before a black man, Keith Scott, was shot by police in Charlotte, setting off nearly a week of protesting that shut down the city and caused the National Guard to be sent in to help restore order.
“You can’t live in your own house in America without getting killed. It’s powerful,” Reid said. “I will keep speaking for my people.”
Reid pointed out that 2019 will mark 400 years “since the first slave touched the soil in this country. That’s 400 years of systemic depression, slavery, Jim Crow, new Jim Crow, mass incarceration, you name it.”
He added that racial injustice “has been happening since my people have gotten here. So I just felt the need to say something about it.”