Up Next

Commentary

Did Eric Reid file his collusion lawsuit against the NFL too soon?

The lawsuit could be the last nail in the coffin keeping the safety out of the league

Eric Reid, the former San Francisco 49ers safety who knelt during the national anthem to protest racial injustice, won’t ever play in the NFL again. We can draw that conclusion from his decision to follow the path blazed by Colin Kaepernick and sue the NFL for collusion.

Given the closeness between the two men, Reid also taking this path appeared imminently possible. In fact, Reid predicted this, telling Dieter Kurtenbach of The Mercury News, “If I’m not in the league next year, there will be a process I will go through. … If I enter free agency and I’m not on a team next year, I’ll weigh all my options, legally, what have you.

But did he shoot his shot too soon?

One can understand why Reid would feel pessimistic about his chances of securing employment this offseason. Only the Cincinnati Bengals extended an offer to visit thus far to one of the league’s better safeties. During the visit, team owner Mike Brown sought assurances from Reid that he would refrain from kneeling if he were signed, but Reid declined to specify how he would approach the matter. No offer came from the Bengals, and no offer looks imminent after the team selected Wake Forest safety Jessie Bates III in the second round of the 2018 NFL draft last month.

But other teams might have interest and were simply waiting to see how the draft would unfold. The safety class in the 2017 NFL draft was deep, with 24 safeties being selected. Many teams, therefore, have young safeties on their rosters with cost-controlled rookie deals. This year’s class was comparably shallow but did have two standouts in Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick and Florida State’s Derwin James.

I was interested to see how the free-agent safety market was going to turn out for Reid after the draft, especially since quality free agents Kenny Vaccaro and Tre Boston remain unsigned. The lawyer in me fears Reid should have waited a bit longer, since this lawsuit will likely deter other teams from signing him.

But Reid has talented lawyers Mark Geragos and Ben Meiselas, who also represent Kaepernick. Per Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated, “Reid’s grievance must comport with the requirements of Article 17 of the collective bargaining agreement signed by the NFL and NFLPA. Article 17 concerns acts of collusion that occurred within previous 90 days.” Perhaps Geragos and Meiselas, because of their work for Kaepernick’s case, realized that Reid needed to file his case soon.

I am saddened that a 26-year-old will likely never play the sport he loves. Standing up for what’s right shouldn’t cost a person his livelihood, especially in a league where beating a woman isn’t a career-ender.

I am saddened that a 26-year-old will likely never play the sport he loves. Standing up for what’s right shouldn’t cost a person his livelihood, especially in a league where beating a woman isn’t a career-ender.

Many fans have claimed, wrongly, that Kaepernick sits at home jobless because of a lack of ability. But no one can sell the argument that Reid isn’t good enough. Teams keep at least four safeties on their roster. The league does not have 128 men better at patrolling center field than Reid.

What, then, will the argument be for why Reid doesn’t have a job?

Wading through the cesspool of article comments and Twitter egg avatars brings to light the refrain we will constantly hear: Reid is bad for business and owners don’t want to sign someone who will cost them money.

Let’s, for the sake of argument, stipulate this is true, although I seriously doubt anyone will stop rooting for a team because of a safety. The problem is that these are the same sorts of folk decrying political correctness. These are the same folk who bemoan a culture where people are punished for uttering unpopular opinions. Why, then, don’t these people take up Reid’s cause as one featuring another victim of a culture that punishes people for being on the unpopular side of a cultural flash point?

This situation further evidences that many people who decry political correctness aren’t actually upset that our culture punishes people for unpopular positions. Instead, they think society punishes too often the wrong people: white men.

The truth is simple: A lot of our fellow Americans are happy that men like Kaepernick and Reid don’t have jobs because of their decision to protest racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem. They realize this makes them hypocrites, and thus they learn to obfuscate their true feelings with transparent cover stories. Instead, we get Kaepernick is not good enough and Reid is bad for business.

The story of Eric Reid further exposes how incessant cries of political correctness cover up quieter tears of joy that black men can lose their jobs for protesting racial injustice.

Brando Simeo Starkey is an associate editor at The Undefeated and the author of In Defense of Uncle Tom: Why Blacks Must Police Racial Loyalty. He crawled through a river of books and came out brilliant on the other side.