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When Eric Reid filed a grievance against the NFL this week, it highlighted a string of legal breadcrumbs left for months in Colin Kaepernick’s collusion case brought against the league. And now more than ever, those breadcrumbs appear to be leading to one person: President Donald Trump.
A source who has viewed Reid’s confidential collusion filing against the NFL told Yahoo Sports that Trump is the crystal-clear target in the complaint. Specifically, the direct role Trump allegedly played in aligning NFL owners against players who had chosen to kneel as a form of silent protest, an act designed by the players to raise social awareness and promote racial equality, among other pursuits. The source said Reid’s complaint is anchored almost entirely to allegations of direct, but apparently still undefined, communications between Trump and NFL owners, which caused owners to take adverse action against Reid and other players. The “other players” include Kaepernick, but may not be limited to the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback.
The source added that the direct communications between Trump and NFL owners are alleged to have taken place both privately and publicly. Presumably, the public communications would include the litany of statements Trump has made about kneeling players on a wide variety of platforms, including speeches, interviews and his own Twitter account. The private communications likely include Trump’s verified personal phone calls with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, but could encompass other conversations that have yet to be revealed.
How is this different from Kaepernick’s case?
While portions of Reid’s complaint sound like a rehash of the collusion allegation filed by Kaepernick, there is one key difference that could make Reid’s more revealing: It comes in the wake of months of discovery and depositions by the attorneys who now represent both Kaepernick and Reid. This may make Reid’s collusion filing more telling because it has the benefit of being focused through reams of private information that wasn’t available when Kaepernick filed his complaint last October.
Reid’s lawyers may feel they already have the evidence of collusion they need because it has been revealed during the course of Kaepernick’s discovery process.
This is what makes the spotlighting of Trump in this latest filing so telling. Consider: When Kaepernick filed his collusion complaint nearly seven months ago, the focus of allegations was wide, pointing not only at Trump, but also at commissioner Roger Goodell, other NFL executives, as well as the league’s entire ownership group. Make no mistake, Reid’s filing still points an accusatory finger at the NFL’s ownership and executive ranks. But it apparently paints Trump as the driving force behind the depths of the league’s motivation to keep both Kaepernick and Reid out of the league.
That’s an important distinction when comparing the two collusion complaints. And it suggests that during the process of discovery, the attorneys for Kaepernick and Reid have cultivated evidence putting Trump at center stage. Evidence that either came from the massive swath of discovery documents requested from a number of league executives and owners – or directly from the depositions of league power brokers.
Secret recording of owners meeting becomes bigger
Thus far, at least two depositions appear to have been heavily focused on Trump’s involvement: That of Jones, who admitted last season to having conversations with the president about kneeling players; and that of Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who admitted publicly to having changed his view of kneeling players after Trump framed the focus of the act as being anti-military.
While it’s not known precisely what the depositions of Jones and Ross produced, it’s significant that both were taken before Reid’s Trump-focused collusion complaint was filed. Not to mention the reality that Reid’s complaint also came after a recent New York Times revelation that a private meeting between a handful of NFL owners and protesting players in November was secretly recorded. The Times quoted directly from that recording, which included several instances of owners expressing concern over Trump’s attacks on the league due to kneeling players.
Viewed in the wider scope, the points of information are leading straight to one place. From the direction of the depositions, to the surreptitiously recorded meeting between players and owners, to a pair of collusion cases that apparently now share a unifying theme.
Seven months ago, Trump was a strong figure in alleged NFL collusion. Today, he’s the center of it.
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