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NFL Anthem Protester's Grievance Gets Shut Down

A grievance filed against the Cincinnati Bengals on behalf of the Carolina Panthers’ Eric Reid was denied by an arbitrator, NFL.com and others reported Tuesday.

The NFL Players Association filed the grievance after Reid visited the Bengals during the free agency period earlier this year. Team owner Mike Brown asked Reid if he would continue kneeling in protest during the national anthem, as he did last year with the 49ers.

The team ended up not signing Reid, and the grievance claimed the Bengals negotiated in bad faith because they had no intention of signing him if he said he would continue to kneel.

Since the Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn’t require that players must stand for the anthem, the NFLPA believed that question asked to Reid was a prerequisite for a potential contract offer.

However, independent arbitrator Shyam Das ruled that the team was within its rights to ask Reid if he would continue to kneel during the anthem, and he denied the grievance.

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The NFLPA released a statement Tuesday in response to the decision and hinted at the possibility of more legal action.

“We are disappointed in this decision, especially since the arbitrator affirms the facts which our filing was based upon and provides no in-depth analysis of why management can engage in behavior that violates fair hiring practices,” the union said in a statement.

“Despite this decision, we are thrilled that Eric Reid is back with an NFL club doing the job he loves and our hope is that Colin Kaepernick follows him back to the playing field soon,” the NFLPA said. “We will review the decision more carefully with Eric and his lawyers to consider our next steps.”

Reid was the first player to kneel alongside his former San Francisco teammate, quarterback Colin Kaepernick, in protest during the national anthem in 2016. He said he wanted to help start a national dialogue on police brutality and racial oppression.

Do you think Eric Reid's grievance against the NFL will also get denied?

“There are issues in this country that a lot of people feel strongly about, and the goal is just to fix those issues, to make progress on those issues,” Reid told reporters at the time.

After five seasons with the 49ers, Reid became a free agent in March. He was unemployed until late September, when he signed with the Panthers.

Reid has started all three games since he arrived at Carolina, and he has continued to kneel during the national anthem.

Before his most recent game, against Philadelphia, Reid got into a confrontation with Malcolm Jenkins of the Eagles, one of the leaders of the Players Coalition that was formed in the wake of Kaepernick’s protests. The two had to be separated by teammates, and after the game Reid called Jenkins a “sellout.”

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“He co-opted with the movement that was started by Colin to get his organization started. It was cowardly. He sold us out,” Reid said.

Reid and Jenkins have been feuding since Reid withdrew from the Players Coalition in November 2017. The two had differences about how the NFL was funding the social justice causes supported by the coalition.

“In the discussion that we had, Malcolm conveyed to us — based on discussions that he had with the NFL — that the money would come from funds that are already allocated to breast cancer awareness and Salute to Service,” Reid told Slate at the time. “So it would really be no skin off the owners’ backs: They would just move the money from those programs to this one.”

In addition to his grievance against the Bengals, Reid also has a pending grievance against the NFL alleging teams colluded to keep him out of the league because of his protests. He decided not to drop it after he signed with the Panthers.

Reid’s attorney, Mark Geragos, is also representing Kaepernick in the former quarterback’s grievance against the league, which is headed for trial.

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Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009.
Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009 and previously worked for ESPN, CBS and STATS Inc. A native of Louisiana, Ross now resides in Houston.
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