Kenny Stills kneeled during the national anthem before Thursday night’s preseason game, and he said afterward that if the NFL wants the players to stop kneeling, it should bring back the players who began the movement.
Colin Kaepernick was the first player to kneel during the anthem, and his former 49ers teammate Eric Reid was the first player to join him. Kaepernick and Reid now remain unsigned and out of the NFL. Stills said if Kaepernick and Reid were signed, it would go a long way toward engendering some good will between the players, who are adamant that they have the right to kneel, and the owners, who want every player to stand.
“It would take a lot, but I think a good first step for us as a league would be acknowledging what they’re doing to Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid. You can’t say as a league that you support the players and the protest and then blackball the players that initially started the protest,” Stills said.
Realistically, it’s hard to see how that compromise could come about. The NFL isn’t going to tell the NFL Players Association, “We’ll stop blackballing Kaepernick and Reid if you’ll all agree to stop kneeling,” because that would require the NFL to admit it’s blackballing Kaepernick and Reid.
But if the owners want to convince the players that their concerns are being heard, one owner agreeing to offer contracts to Kaepernick and Reid would be an action that would speak louder than all the owners’ words.