Eric Reid was grateful to be back in the league, and to be able to engage in his personal form of non-violent protest.
But the absence of the guy he knelt next to for so long made his first game back with the Panthers difficult for him.
Via Jason Reid of The Undefeated, Reid said that the continued unemployment of quarterback Colin Kaepernick made it a difficult day for him.
“It’s bittersweet,” Reid said. “I won the game, but Colin is at home with my kids. He should be playing.”
As he did when they were together, Reid took a knee during the national anthem yesterday, to draw attention to police brutality and racial inequality. Reid knows that political opportunists and their willing followers will try to turn it into something else, but he was steadfast.
“Everybody in this [locker room], everybody who watches this game [and] everybody in this country knows what we’re talking about,” Reid said. “It’s the truth. You can’t deny it. We’ve just got to do more to make this better. . . .
“People who don’t want things to change, people who want to maintain the status quo . . . they have to subvert. They have to distract. They have to redirect from what we’re trying to accomplish. We have to stay strong. We have to stay diligent.”
Before Reid signed with the Panthers prior to their bye, he was part of a backpack giveaway with the Lower Eastside Girls Club of New York, providing school supplies for underprivileged students. That’s just one of the roles he’s been happy to take on, and he made it clear after his first game back that he’d continued to work toward causes that were meaningful to him.
And before he knelt again, he told coach Ron Rivera of his plans, though he said he wasn’t looking for permission. And he was supported by teammates, including future Hall of Fame defensive end Julius Peppers (whose staying in the locker room for one anthem was the previous high-water mark of Panthers protest).
“I told him earlier in the week I was going to support him regardless, whatever he did,” Peppers said. “I wanted to make sure he felt comfortable doing what he did. . . . He adds a sense of culture to our team and we’re embracing it.”
The Panthers are also embracing him because they needed help at safety, but it’s clear he’s not leaving his conscience behind him just to get a job.