On Sunday, Eric Reid made his debut for the Carolina Panthers. Though he’s expected to give them much-needed help at the safety position, all eyes were on him before he even played a down to see if he would protest during the playing of the national anthem.
Reid did kneel during the national anthem before their Week 5 matchup against the New York Giants:
Reid was the first player to join then-teammate Colin Kaepernick’s protest, which began more than two years ago and aimed to bring attention to police brutality and racial injustice in the U.S. In March, the former 49ers safety became a free agent and when he was unable to find a new team, he followed Kaepernick’s lead and filed a collusion lawsuit against the NFL, which is still ongoing. Reid had been the best available safety on the open market, until the Panthers signed him at the end of September.
In his first press conference with the Panthers, Reid said the Panthers did not ask him if he would protest before signing him. He also said hadn’t made up his mind on if he would demonstrate before the game or not.
“I said that I would be considering other ways, and I’m still considering,” Reid said. “I’m still evaluating the scope of our country.”
Earlier in the week, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said he’d support whatever Reid decided to do.
“I’m going to stand by him and none of that will be a distraction as far as us winning football games,” Newton said. “What he does on the football field is going to impact this team. I know that.”
Newton added that he thought Reid, a 26-year-old former Pro Bowler who has 318 tackles and 10 interceptions so far in his career, was a “steal.” Reid got the start Sunday, the Panthers’ first game since he joined the team.
“We’ll see how he does the first couple series, try and gauge that and go from there,” Rivera said. “We really don’t want to overuse him. We want to be smart about it — we want this for the long haul.”
While the Panthers made a “football decision” to sign Reid, he’s still an important symbol for the protest movement.
Reid, who was wearing an “#IMWITHKAP” shirt at his presser Monday, made it clear that he and Kaepernick were still committed to giving a voice to people of color.
“As we said, when we started, Colin and I, said: ‘Nothing will change unless you talk about it,’ so we’re going to continue to talk about it,” Reid said. “We’re going to continue to hold America accountable to the standard it says on paper, that we’re all created equal, because it’s not that way — but we’re going to keep pushing forward.”
Protests have quieted down this season, though a few players, including Dolphins receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson, have continued to kneel during the national anthem. This offseason, the NFL owners passed a rule that required any players on the field to stand during the playing of the national anthem. After a backlash, that policy was put on hold and is not expected to be revisited this season.