The two men who were at the forefront of the anthem protests now each have collusion grievances against the NFL.
Free-agent safety Eric Reid has filed a collusion grievance, seven weeks to the day after becoming a free agent.
Said the NFL Players Association in announcing the grievance: “Our union is aware that Eric Reid and his legal representatives filed a collusion claim, which will be heard through the arbitration process as spelled out in our Collective Bargaining Agreement. Our union supports Eric and we are considering other legal options to pursue.”
The development isn’t a surprise. And Reid’s argument will be similar if not identical to the argument previously made by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Put simply, they’ll both contend that the NFL’s teams adopted a coordinated approach to the shunning of players who were deemed to be “bad for business” because of their role in the anthem protests.
Some believe it’s perfectly legitimate to reject players who have protested in the past or who may protest in the future. This overlooks the reality that the NFL has given players the right to protest, that the NFL confirmed the existence of the right to protest after the phenomenon emerged in 2016, and that the NFL reiterated the existence of the right after President Trump’s comments made the issue a major national subject of debate in 2017.
But even if it’s permissible to shun players for exercising rights given to them by the NFL, it’s not permissible for teams to coordinate when it comes to deciding whether to hire or not hire players. It’s not permissible for teams to coordinate as to any employment issue.
Reid’s free-agency experience consisted of a visit to the Bengals. As PFT reported at the time, owner Mike Brown sought a commitment from Reid that he wouldn’t protest during the anthem, but Reid declined to provide one. Reid thereafter did not receive an offer.
The fact that Reid’s grievance follows Kaepernick’s means that Reid will have access to the same evidence generated in Kaepernick’s case, especially since both men are represented by Mark Geragos. Now that the group of players using the legal process to push back against the NFL’s position has doubled, it’s impossible to rule out other players who believed that they are being damaged as part of a coordinated effort by the league to shun them doing the same.