What does Eric Reid signing mean for his collusion case and Kaepernick?
The Panthers re-signed the safety on a three-year deal, but questions remain
Safety Eric Reid has signed a multiyear extension with the Carolina Panthers, which brings to mind two questions: Could this development adversely affect Reid’s collusion grievance against the NFL, and what does it mean for quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
The short answers are “no” and “not much,” according to experts in labor law.
“The treatment of Eric Reid and his ostracism for some period of time is indeed relevant to the collusion case,” said Stanford Law School professor William B. Gould IV, who served as chairman of the National Labor Relations Board from 1994-98.
“But the fact that he’s now been finally rewarded for his talents, it seems to me, is not relevant [to potentially hurting his case]. If anything, the relevance of this is that it took so long for the reward to be provided to Reid.”
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) February 11, 2019
Then there’s Kaepernick.
In collusion grievances, Reid and Kaepernick, who are close friends and former San Francisco 49ers teammates, allege owners conspired to keep them unemployed because of their political activism. Reid was the first player to kneel alongside Kaepernick more than two years ago to draw attention to police brutality and systemic oppression.
Kaepernick plays the game’s most important position. And by any objective criteria, he has played it well.
During a five-season stretch, Kaepernick started in two NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl. He amassed a touchdown-to-interception ratio that ranks among the best in NFL history. And yet he still remains on the outside looking in as his self-described brother has resumed his career. Kaepernick is expected to receive a full hearing on his grievance sometime this year, and his standing with teams is unlikely to change.
Gould believes Reid’s new deal won’t have much of an impact on Kaepernick’s grievance.
“The Panthers must recognize, by providing Reid this new contract, that he’s an extraordinary talent who was out in the cold for a long time,” Gould said. “And you have to believe that Reid’s lack of marketability was attributable to his association with Kaepernick. I don’t think that the fact Reid’s talent is finally being rewarded … in any way detracts from the Kaepernick case.”
Reid became a free agent when his contract expired after the 2017 season. After Reid had remained on the sidelines throughout training camp and the first three weeks of last season, the Panthers signed him for the remainder of the season in late September.
Other than the Cincinnati Bengals, whom Reid visited last April, other teams did not show interest in him despite his solid performance with the 49ers, which included a Pro Bowl selection after his rookie season. After playing well for the Panthers, Reid now has a longer deal — and he still clearly has a case, said Thomas Lenz, a lecturer at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law.
“His grievance should still go forward because he is certainly out for the time he missed,” said Lenz, chair of the Labor and Employment Section for the State Bar of California. “If anything, this new agreement shows that his market value has not gone down and he’s still a viable player in the NFL. Assuming that there was nothing to affect his physical condition and ability to play, I would think that would potentially boost whatever he’s able to claim.”
The NFL has some explaining to do, Lenz believes.
“I don’t think [Reid’s new contract] explains why he was out of work for that long period. It sort of raises more questions — particularly if his market value is so significant,” Lenz said. “As to Kaepernick, the question remains the same about why he’s not [in the NFL].
“You have someone who was protesting alongside of him who has gone back to work and been rewarded for the quality player that he is. And what explanation do you have, NFL, other than the same tired excuses, for why Kaepernick has not come back?”