NFLPA files two claims on behalf of Eric Reid, players' protest rights

ByDan Graziano ESPN logo
Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The NFL Players Association on Monday filed two claims on behalf of former San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid, a 26-year-old unsigned free agent who believes that teams are refusing to sign him because he has protested during pregame national anthem ceremonies.

The actions taken by the NFL players' union Monday are separate from the collusion grievance Reid and his attorney Mark Geragos filed against the NFL last week.

Monday's filings by the NFLPA included a noninjury grievance specific to Reid's free-agent visits and a more general "system arbitrator case" alleging that any team that asks prospective signees whether they plan to protest during the anthem is engaged in bad-faith negotiation.

"Prior to the start of the current NFL off-season, our Union directed the agents of free agent players who had participated in peaceful on-field demonstrations to collect, memorialize and report any relevant information about potential violations of the Collective Bargaining Agreement by teams," the NFLPA said in a statement announcing the claims Monday.

The union's statement lists five bullet points as justification for the claims:

"There is no League rule that prohibits players from demonstrating during the national anthem."

"The NFL has made it clear both publicly and to the NFLPA that they would respect the rights of players to demonstrate."

"The Collective Bargaining Agreement definitively states that the League (NFL) rules supersede any conflicting club rules."

"According to our information, a club appears to have based its decision not to sign a player based on the player's statement that he would challenge the implementation of a club's policy prohibiting demonstration, which is contrary to the League policy."

"At least one club owner has asked pre-employment interview questions about a player's intent to demonstrate. We believe these questions are improper, given League policy."

The statement does not mention a specific team or teams in connection with the final two points, but it has been reported that Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown asked Reid during his visit with the Bengals whether he planned to continue protesting during the pregame national anthem. Reid, who joined with former 49ers teammate Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when the latter began his protests of social injustice during the anthem and continued them last year, said earlier this offseason that he didn't plan to continue the protests.

Reid filed his collusion grievance last week with the aid of Geragos, the same attorney Kaepernick is using in his own collusion grievance against the league. Monday's union filings, however, are separate.

The noninjury grievance the union filed Monday is based on the union's belief that individual club anthem policies violate the collective bargaining agreement, which doesn't specifically grant teams the right to create their own policies, while the league's states only that players "should" stand for the anthem. Based on information the union has obtained regarding Reid's free-agent visits, an NFLPA source said Monday, the NFLPA believes the Bengals told Reid they were planning to implement a policy requiring players to stand for the anthem.

The system arbitrator case that the union filed Monday is a broader claim intended to establish a precedent for all players and against all clubs moving forward. This one doesn't address the idea of individual team policies on the anthem as much as the idea of what questions are and aren't appropriate to ask prospective employees in interviews.