Ron Rivera: Eric Reid exercising First Amendment right when kneeling
ASHBURN Most coaches might consider a player kneeling during the national anthem to be a distraction. Player protests can bring frequent questions from the media, a passionate debate among the fanbase and even heat from the President, all of which could be annoying to football lifers trying to win games.
But Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Wednesday he does not have a problem with Eric Reid protesting before games as the safety did last week against the New York Giants.
Reid will likely kneel again Sunday when the Panthers take on the Redskins at FedEx Field.
“The biggest reason it’s not an issue to me is I believe in the First Amendment,” Rivera said. “And that’s all he did was exercise his First Amendment. As far as I’m concerned, he’s an American citizen entitled to exercise his rights.”
Reid has said he’s kneeling to protest racial inequality and police brutality. The 26-year-old began kneeling in 2016 alongside teammate and friend Colin Kaepernick.
But Reid had been out of football to begin the season after his contract expired in the spring, leading the safety to file a grievance against the league, alleging owners colluded to not sign him over his political stance. Through his first five seasons, Reid started 69 of 70 games for the San Francisco 49ers.
Reid’s unemployment ended two weeks ago when the Panthers, decimated by injuries at safety, signed him. Rivera reiterated Wednesday that the move was solely done for “football reasons.”
Even though he’s back in the NFL, Reid told reporters he has no plans to drop his claim against the league.
In his first game back, Reid had three tackles and played 85.7 percent of the team’s snaps. Addressing his decision to kneel, Reid said he felt like the country was “moving backward” and the only way to change it was to keep raising awareness.
“We, as a country, have fallen short,” Reid told reporters. “Four hundred years of this. 400 years. Emmett Till, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Alton Sterling the list goes on. It’s unacceptable. And I can’t close my eyes and go to sleep at night without feeling like I did something to try to make those things better.”
Rivera said Reid has been a welcome addition to the Panthers’ locker room.
“He’s assimilated very nicely,” Rivera said. “Our guys in the locker room, we would like to believe that we have the right type of personalities in that locker room. And the guys we have has always been good.”