The NFL used footage of both Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick kneeling from the 2016 season during a video it played before games Sunday that included a rendition of the song "Lift Every Voice and Sing" and various shots of NFL players protesting and either standing or kneeling together.
But both Reid and Kaepernick found the symbolism hollow and disingenuous.
Reid called out the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday for keeping Kaepernick out of the league since 2016:
That followed Kaepernick describing the league's anti-racism campaign as "propaganda" and calling out NFL teams for not signing Reid this season:
Colin Kaepernick @Kaepernick7
While the NFL runs propaganda about how they care about Black Life, they are still actively blackballing Eric Reid (@E_Reid35) for fighting for the Black community. Eric set 2 franchise records last year, and is one of the best defensive players in the league. https://t.co/KQXTaOCcnU
Reid, 28, played in all 16 games for the Carolina Panthers in the 2019 season, registering 130 tackles (seven for loss), four sacks, six passes defensed, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Both his tackles and sacks were a career high.
It's hard to imagine that a player in his prime, after posting excellent statistics in 2019, wouldn't be signed by an NFL team unless there was an off-the-field reason. In this case, Kaepernick believes the reason is because Reid previously kneeled and has been vocal in his support of Kaepernick.
Reid, in turn, believes the NFL is using the images of Kaepernick kneeling to generate positive PR in a time of social unrest and protest while it continues to keep him out of the league, thereby undercutting their message entirely. For Reid and Kaepernick, the league's anti-racism campaign is mere lip service.
They aren't the only ones to notice the disconnect at play:
Dave Zirin @EdgeofSports
We understand. After four years of the league exiling Kaepernick & punishing players for their politics, a quick three month PR turnaround isn't going to change the way fans have been conditioned by this league to respond to "protest". Blame the fans, sure. But this is on the NFL https://t.co/lozZe9gDD6
Pablo S. Torre @PabloTorre
New #ESPNDaily: Listen to the moment when @DeshaunWatson deflects @TimKeownESPN’s question about the challenges facing black quarterbacks, like Colin Kaepernick, who decide to speak up. Because then Watson catches himself. And finds his voice: https://t.co/TVYn0wx8Va https://t.co/BRq4Wt9pfH
It was only three years ago that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, one of the most influential figures in the league, said in no uncertain terms, "Let me be real, real clear: The thing that the National Football League needs to do, and the Dallas Cowboys are going to do, is stand for the flag. We're going to do that. It's the rules that are on the book. In my opinion."
After hearing messaging like that coming from the league and its owners during the height of the national debate about Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the national anthem as a protest of racial discrimination and police brutality, it isn't hard to see why Kaepernick and Reid are skeptical of the league's motivations now.