Anthem Kneeler Eric Reid Wears #IMWITHKAP Shirt to First Panthers Practice

‘This has been happening since my people have gotten here…’

(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) For some football fans in Charlotte, the signing of safety Eric Reid may literally be a case of adding insult to injury.

The former San Francisco 49er, who famously flanked quarterback Colin Kaepernick while kneeling during the national anthem in the 2016 season, was signed to a one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers last week to replace injured starter Da’Norris Searcy.

Although previous Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was a vocal advocate for respecting the anthem, Richardson–embroiled in scandal–sold the team in May to billionaire hedge-fund manager David Tepper for nearly $2.3 billion. Tepper has been equally outspoken as a critic of President Donald Trump.

Not content to simply have a job, nor even to let his actions do the talking, Reid showed up at a post-practice interview sporting a T-shirt that said #IMWITHKAP.

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Reid spoke at the press conference about 400 years of systemic oppression in America under the slavery system. “This has been happening since my people have gotten here,” he said. Slavery was outlawed under the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, though systemic discrimination continued into the 1960s, with a lunch-counter sit-in in nearby Greensboro, N.C., playing a major part in the Civil Rights movement.

Reid, a Louisiana native, and Kaepernick, who is mixed race and was raised in an affluent suburb of California by white adoptive parents, have continued to decry what they see as oppressive forces in America, including police violence in black communities.

“As we said when we started, Colin and I, nothing will change unless we talk about it,” he said. “We’re going to continue to hold America to the standard it says on paper, that we’re all created equal, because that’s not the way right now.”

The racial animus that crested in the second term of President Barack Obama, with multiple outbreaks of rioting in major cities, hit home personally for Reid in 2016 after Alton Sterling was shot by two police officers Reid’s hometown of Baton Rouge. The officers, later cleared, were responding to calls about a person of similar description threatening people with a handgun. Sterling, who had a criminal record of violent offenses, including charges for carrying a weapon in his waistband, was under the influence of several narcotics and was allegedly resisting arrest, after having been tasered, when the responding officers shot him, believing him to be reaching for a weapon.

The shooting, filmed by a group of local anti-violence activists that had been monitoring the police scanner at the time, spurred mass protests in the Louisiana capital. Three police officers were later killed in retaliation by a radical Nation of Islam follower who ambushed the officers in full body armor while they were at a car wash.

Reid said in a New York Times op-ed last September that Sterling’s case was a call to action for him. “It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel,” he wrote. “We chose it because it’s exactly the opposite.”

While their movement has effected limited political change, it has been a catalyst for others, including local government officials and school children to follow suit during the Pledge of Allegiance.

In addition to the controversy it has generated, however, it also has made billions in revenue for Nike, which signed Kaepernick recently to a bold, if divisive, advertising campaign.

Kaepernick sought to further cash in by trademarking the hash-tagged slogan that Reid wore on his shirt.

Both players currently are suing the NFL, claiming discrimination over the fact that they were not given contracts after the kneeling began.

Reid’s former team, the San Francisco 49ers, said it would have been happy to have him back but that it would have been in a more limited role and for a reduced salary based on performance. The 49ers had a record of two wins and 14 losses during Kaepernick’s and Reid’s final season there.