Anti-Trump NFL Owner Signs Colin Kaepernick’s Anthem-Kneeling Partner

KAEPERNICK: ‘Congrats 2 my brother @e — reid35…He was the 1ST person 2 kneel alongside me…’

NFL Won't Sign Anthem Protester; Says He'll Kneel No More

Eric Reid & Colin Kaepernick/IMAGE: YouTube

(Cam Inman, The Mercury News) Former San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid finally has found a new team, signing Thursday with the Carolina Panthers after lingering six months on the free-agent market.

The 49ers, it turns out, wanted him, too. Amid injuries to starting safeties Jaquiski Tartt and Adrian Colbert, the 49ers pursued a one-year deal with Reid earlier this week, a league source confirmed.

Reid, as he waited for his next job, joined Colin Kaepernick in May by filing a grievance against the NFL over alleged collusion, claiming owners were keeping them out of the league based on their social activism and kneeling protests during the national anthem since 2016.

Reid had taken a visit in the spring to the Cincinnati Bengals, where it was reported they rebuffed signing him when he declined to state how he might act during the anthem. Kaepernick has not signed or even worked out for a team since opting in March 2017 to void his 49ers contract.

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The Panthers, whose ownership changed over the summer, would never have signed Reid before that transaction, according to Sports Illustrated:

It cannot be overstated how unlikely this signing would have been if Jerry Richardson still owned the Panthers. When protests sparked across the league last September, Richardson opted against either a full-throated endorsement of his players or some wishy-washy statement, instead writing “politicizing the game is damaging.” It was well understood that any public protest would be frowned upon by the owner, and only future NFL Hall-of-Famer Julius Peppers protested in any form by staying in the locker room during the national anthem.

Richardson, accused of both sexual misconduct and using a racial slur toward a black scout, sold his team to David Tepper for nearly $2.3 billion in May of this year. The billionaire hedge fund manager has been a vocal critic of President Trump since the president was the Republican nominee. He has not sparred with Trump since buying the Panthers, but he has clearly been on the opposite of Trump as it relates to NFL players protesting during the national anthem.

Earlier this month, Tepper refuted the notion that players who protest are un-American.

“That was the biggest pile of bull-dingy ever,” Tepper told CNBC. “These are some of the most patriotic people and best people. These are great young men. It just makes me so aggravated and angry. OK? It’s just wrong. It’s just dead wrong.”

Tepper has also called Trump a “demented, narcissistic scumbag.”

Several players around the league responded to Reid’s signing with applause through social media, including Kaepernick, who tweeted: “Congrats 2 my brother @e — reid35, all pro safety who should have been signed the 1st day of free agency, who has signed a football contract. He was the 1ST person 2 kneel alongside me. Eric is a social justice warrior, continues to support his family. and communities in need.”

Reid signed a one-year with the Panthers. Financial terms were not immediately known. The Panthers (2-1) are idle this week and next play Oct. 7 against the New York Giants.

Reid, 26, played the previous five seasons with the 49ers and was their 2013 first-round draft pick. Coach Kyle Shanahan has said the team would have welcomed Reid back but didn’t think he was interested in playing a backup role at a minimum salary.

Meanwhile, the 49ers’ Tartt and Colbert are injured and did not practice Wednesday. Tartt landed a contract extension this spring as the 49ers committed to him rather than Reid. Colbert, a seventh-round draft pick last year, plays free safety, which is where Reid began his career and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie.

Coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed earlier this season the 49ers did reach out to Reid, although no formal offer was made.

“If any really good player wants to come in here on a minimum deal, and have a good player to be a backup, that’d be unbelievable,” Shanahan said then. “I don’t think that’s what Eric wants. I told you the reason we decided to go that direction is we made a tough decision but had to do it. We went with Tartt.”

Former 49ers teammate Torrey Smith is now a wide receiver on the Carolina Panthers and he campaigned this week for them to sign Reid.

“Eric Reid is a Pro-Bowl caliber safety, 26-years old with a first-round pedigree,” Smith told the Charlotte Observer. “And he’s one of the best men that I know. I know that teams obviously have to be interested in him, and honestly, with our injuries I hope he ends up here.

“I know how he is, his talent. If it’s something where (general manager Marty Hurney or coach Ron Rivera) come and talk to me about him, I’ll be glad to talk about him as a player and as a person. He’s one of the best men that I’ve been around. I hope that’s something that can happen for us, because I know with the injuries that we have he could help this team.”

Hurney agreed, issuing this statement to the Panthers website: “Eric has been a starting safety in the NFL and has played at a high level throughout his career. After we put safety Da’Norris Searcy on injured reserve, Ron and I discussed our options and Eric was at the top of our list. He is a physical safety with good ball skills and play-making ability.”

©2018 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. Liberty Headlines editor Paul Chesser contributed.