The Carolina Panthers officially welcomed safety Eric Reid to their 2018-19 campaign for an NFC South title on Sunday, October 7 — and the former Pro Bowl star predictably brought his long-standing national anthem protest along with him, ABC News reports.
Thanks to the heroics of kicker Graham Gano and his record-tying 63-yard field goal to seal a 33-31 victory over the New York Giants, Carolina fans flooded out of Bank of America Stadium with revitalized joy at the renewed prospects of their home team. It was an emotional consensus that undoubtedly marked a shift from the mixture of feelings that preceded the contest’s 1 p.m. kickoff. All eyes had been on the newly acquired Reid — and whether he’d bring his politics to town. Sure enough, as the tens of thousands on hand took to their feet for “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Reid got down on one knee.
Considering the role that he assumed as former 49ers teammate Colin Kaepernick’s successor in the protest movement that swept the league last year, questions as to how Reid would proceed naturally lingered after his Sept. 27 signing. As ESPN would report, Reid minced no words in stating his intention to continue forth with the collusion lawsuit that he has filed against the league. But leading up to the commencement of Sunday’s matchup, the 26-year-old defenseman remained noncommittal on whether or not he would finally stand for the playing of the national anthem.
After the game, Reid spoke unapologetically about his motivations to become the first Carolina Panther’s player to make a statement against racial injustice during the patriotic pregame ceremony.
“Everybody in this room, everybody who watches these game, everybody in this country knows that what we’re talking about is happening. It’s the truth. You can’t deny it. We’ve just got to do more to make this better,” said Reid. “I’m past frustration. My goal is to – like I said before – send power to my people.”
Reid concluded his remarks by noting that for him the thrilling win proved “bittersweet” — because at that very moment Kaepernick was babysitting his children “when he should be playing.” Kaepernick, in turn, took to social media to express his gratitude and the respect that he has for Reid in moving forward with his protest, tweeting: “My brother [Eric Reid], with [Kenny Stills] and [Albert Wilson] continue to take a knee against systemic oppression. They are unwavering in their conviction!”
The stakes are high for a Carolina team that finds itself in a race for divisional supremacy with the high powered New Orleans Saints. Whereas in past seasons the Panthers organization has been adamant about distancing itself from league-wide protests, coach Ron Rivera now appears less intent on putting energy into anything besides the football game being played.
“I’m not going to talk about a guy exercising his first amendment rights,” The New York Times quotes Rivera as responding when the question of Reid’s pre-game actions came up after the contest. When quarterback Cam Newton came to the podium he remained just as neutral on the topic, telling reporters that all that matters to him is Reid’s play on the field.