NFLPA files grievance on behalf of Eric Reid over team's questions about kneeling for anthem

The NFLPA told the agents of this year’s free-agent class who demonstrated during the national anthem to collect and report relevant information about teams’ questions to them in regards to the protests.

And the union believes a team, presumably the Cincinnati Bengals, made improper inquiries to safety Eric Reid based on league policy.

Reid, the former San Francisco 49ers safety who notably kneeled alongside quarterback Colin Kaepernick to protest racial inequality during the anthem through the 2016 season, visited with the Bengals this offseason. He reportedly was asked by Bengals owner Mike Brown about his plans to kneel during the anthem and was told he would be prohibited from doing so. Reid, who reportedly refused to state his plans, was not signed.

In this Oct. 2, 2016, file photo, San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Eli Harold, left, quarterback Colin Kaepernick, center, and safety Eric Reid kneel during the national anthem. (AP)
In this Oct. 2, 2016, file photo, San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Eli Harold (L), quarterback Colin Kaepernick (C) and safety Eric Reid kneel during the national anthem. (AP)

The NFLPA’s statement didn’t mention the Bengals, but Pro Football Talk said it was related to the Bengals. Cincinnati was Reid’s only known free-agent visit.

Here’s the NFLPA’s statement:

The NFLPA has filed a non-injury grievance and a system arbitrator case on behalf of free agent safety Eric Reid. 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. These cases were filed based upon the following:

  • 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 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.

Our Union continues to monitor these developments.

It’s an important development in the uncomfortable divide between the NFL and its players. The NFL has owners that don’t want players kneeling. This is the first time the players have specifically challenged the league on its anthem policy, or perhaps more specifically a lack of one. The NFL hasn’t implemented any policy that would force players to stand for the anthem or stay in the locker room, and has supported players in other ways when it comes to their fight for social issues. The lack of a league policy prohibiting kneeling for the anthem is at the center of the NFLPA’s issue in the Reid case.

Reid has filed a collusion grievance. So has Kaepernick. The entire issue hung over the NFL last season, and with Reid being unsigned and the NFLPA fighting the league on the issue, it could again.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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