Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown reportedly asked safety Eric Reid about his protests during the national anthem in the past and said he planned to ban Bengals players from participating in them in the future during Reid's free-agent visit with the team, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
"Brown, according to the source, initiated discussion regarding the issue of kneeling during the anthem. The conversation almost exclusively centered on the topic, with Brown explaining that he intends to prohibit it—and with Brown at one point asking Reid for his response.
"Reid, caught off guard by the line of questioning, wasn't willing to make a commitment on the spot. Last month, Reid said he's currently not planning to kneel or otherwise demonstrate during the anthem. But Reid, who is considering other options for bringing attention to societal issues he considers to be important, hasn't made any final decisions, and he wasn't willing to do so at the direct request and behest of Brown."
Reid, 26, began kneeling during the national anthem with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the 2016 season to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Kaepernick became a free agent after that season and has not been signed to a team since, leading many to believe his form of protest is the basis for the NFL's cold shoulder.
Brown's reported comments to Reid certainly lend credence to the theory that players like Kaepernick are being blackballed by the NFL owners for political reasons.
"It would be hard to say that he's not getting any calls just on talent alone. I think any team that is considering him is going to weigh his political views and the strong stance that he's taken the last couple years, and that's unfortunate, but it's just kind of what it is. So hopefully, teams will look past that and evaluate him as a player, and I think as a player he deserves a spot in this league. But I'd be kidding myself if I said that his stance isn't playing a role in him not having a call yet."
Reid chimed in himself:
Reid also said in March he didn't plan on kneeling during the anthem this season, per the Associated Press:
"I'm not saying I'm going to stop being active because I won't. I'm just going to consider different ways to be active, different ways to bring awareness to the issues of this country and improve on the issues happening in this country. I don't think it will be in the form of protesting during the anthem. I say during because it's crazy that the narrative changed to we were protesting the anthem and that wasn't the case. I think we're going to take a different approach to how we're going to be active."
Reid, 26, registered 66 tackles and two interceptions in 2017, earning a grade of 81.4 from Pro Football Focus, 30th among safeties. He was a Pro Bowl selection in 2013.
As for the Bengals, the team has a history of bringing aboard players with off-field concerns or criminal records, like Adam "Pacman" Jones and Joe Mixon, and sticking with players like Vontaze Burfict, whose violent streak on the field has earned him multiple suspensions. But taking a knee during the anthem is a line too far apparently.