Eric Reid, the first player to kneel alongside Colin Kaepernick in protest at racial injustice, has attacked the NFL for using images of the quarterback in a video campaign.
The NFL is running a season-long campaign entitled “It Takes All Of Us” which the league says aims to promote unity across the US and highlight the fight for social justice. In one of the videos, Alicia Keys performs Lift Every Voice and Sing, widely known as the Black national anthem. The video was shown before Thursday night’s season opener and contains footage of Kaepernick kneeling while a member of the San Francisco 49ers.
On Monday, Reid called out the NFL for using images of Kaepernick, who has been unable to find a job in the league since leaving the San Francisco 49ers at the end of the 2016 season.
2/2 business climate. As such, Roger Goodell uses video of Colin courageously kneeling to legitimize their disingenuous PR while simultaneously perpetuating systemic oppression, that the video he’s using fights against, by continuing to rob Colin of his career. It’s diabolical.
— Eric Reid (@E_Reid35) September 14, 2020
“What the @NFL is doing is half-hearted at best. [NFL commissioner Roger Goodell] has gotten comfortable saying he ‘was wrong’ as if his mere acknowledgement reconciles his admitted wrongdoing. He hasn’t even called Colin to apologize, let alone reconcile, proving this is only PR for the current business climate,” wrote Reid on Twitter.
“As such, Roger Goodell uses video of Colin courageously kneeling to legitimize their disingenuous PR while simultaneously perpetuating systemic oppression, that the video he’s using fights against, by continuing to rob Colin of his career. It’s diabolical.”
Many people believe, with good evidence, that NFL team owners have blackballed Kaepernick due to his political beliefs. Reid appears to have suffered the same problems. He struggled to find a new team after leaving the 49ers before being picked up by the Carolina Panthers. While he was there, Reid was picked for “random” drug tests by the league in six of his first 11 weeks with the team. Yahoo Sports calculated the probability of that frequency of testing to be 0.17%. Reid left the Panthers earlier this year and has not found another team, despite setting career best figures in tackles and sacks last season. At 28, he is an age when most players are at their peak.
Kaepernick himself wrote about Reid’s exile from the league in a tweet on Sunday. “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,” he wrote.
The league has also been attacked by conservatives for what they perceive as an overemphasis on politics. A “moment of unity” before Thursday night’s season opener between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans was booed by fans at Arrowhead Stadium. During the ceremony, players from both teams linked arms while messages such as “We must end racism” and “We choose unconditional love” were displayed on the scoreboard.
Ratings for Thursday’s game were down 12.3% compared to last year’s season opener, and initial reports say Sunday’s NFL viewership had fallen too. Recent polls indicate that a significant minority of sports fans do not approve of player protests, which may account for the fall. However, viewership of events such as the US Open, where activism has played less of a part, is also down, while the NFL is competing against the NHL and NBA, which are playing in their usual off-season due to the Covid-19 pandemic.