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After years of shunning player protests and distancing itself from the Black Lives Matter movement, the NFL has kicked off its 2020 season with efforts to acknowledge racial injustice in the United States.
The shift in tone arrived after a summer of widespread unrest amid a race reckoning in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police. What started with commissioner Roger Goodell proclaiming “Black lives matter” and “we were wrong” has led to an opening day that’s seen various on-field player protests and official league signage with messages like “end racism.”
Colin Kaepernick’s not buying it
What the NFL’s opening Sunday didn’t include was Kaepernick. The 32-year-old quarterback, who’s been exiled since 2017 because of his on-field protests of police brutality and social injustice, remains without a job.
And he’s not buying the NFL’s messaging. Amid the league’s first Sunday of the season, Kaepernick tweeted about NFL “propaganda” and called for his ally and former teammate Eric Reid to be signed.
Reid joins Kaepernick in looking for work
Reid, a 32-year-old safety, kneeled alongside Kaepernick as a member of the San Francisco 49ers and maintained his protests the last two seasons with the Carolina Panthers. He has carried Kaepernick’s torch in the quarterback’s absence from the league and is arguably the NFL’s most outspoken player on issues of racial justice.
He does not have a job as of Week 1. The Panthers released Reid in March as he approached the second year of a three-year, $22 million contract extension. Carolina saved $3 million in salary cap space and now starts 27-year-old journeyman Juston Burris at his position of strong safety.
Burris signed a two-year, $8 million deal with the Panthers as they’re engaged in a rebuild.
Reid coming off a career-best season
Reid has started 98 of the 99 games he’s played in the NFL, including all 29 with Carolina over the last two seasons. He posted a career-high 130 tackles and four sacks in 2019. He does not have a job in the NFL.
NFL teams rejected Kaepernick amid a social and political climate driven largely by President Donald Trump, who repeatedly criticized player protests and called for players who kneel to to be removed from the field of play.
That climate has shifted this summer, and so has the NFL’s public stance. The league hasn’t shifted to the point of welcoming back Kaepernick. And the exiled quarterback is calling the league out on its opening Sunday as Reid also does not have a job.
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