Free agent safety Eric Reid has filed a collusion grievance against the NFL and retained Mark Geragos, the same attorney who is also handling Colin Kaepernick’s collusion lawsuit. Reid began kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality during the 2016 season, and he continued last season after Kaepernick left the team. The news was first reported by ESPN’s Dan Graziano, and the NFLPA confirmed it shortly after with a statement of support for Reid.
Reid became a free agent one week ago, and despite being one of the better safeties on the market, he’s been unable to find a team this offseason. The Bengals met with him, though they were acutely concerned over Reid’s kneeling, which Reid has already said he will not continue during the 2018 season. Reid has been critical of the NFL’s half-measures to allay player concerns, as well as NFL owners expressing pro-player sentiments in a closed-door meeting in October, yet still refusing to sign Kaepernick. When Reid spoke up at said meeting, he called the owners out for blackballing Kaepernick.
“I feel like he was hung out to dry,” Reid said of Kaepernick. “Everyone in here is talking about how much they support us.” The room fell quiet. “Nobody stepped up and said we support Colin’s right to do this. We all let him become Public Enemy No. 1 in this country, and he still doesn’t have a job.”
Reid’s case will probably hew closely to Kaepernick’s, especially since he finds himself frozen out one week after calling out the people who froze out Kaepernick. They will have to prove not just passive collusion, but an active effort to keep Reid out of the league. Here is how the Collective Bargaining Agreement defines collusion (Section 1), as well as the burden of proof for establishing collusion (Section 6).
Section 1. Prohibited Conduct:
(a) No Club, its employees or agents shall enter into any agreement, express or implied, with the NFL or any other Club, its employees or agents to restrict or limit individual Club decision-making as follows:
(i) whether to negotiate or not to negotiate with any player;
(ii) whether to submit or not to submit an Offer Sheet to any Restricted Free Agent;
(iii) whether to offer or not to offer a Player Contract to any player;
(iv) whether to exercise or not to exercise a Right of First Refusal; or
(v) concerning the terms or conditions of employment offered to any player for inclusion, or included, in a Player Contract.
(b) Any approval or disapproval of a player’s contract by the Commissioner, or any communication thereof, timely notice of which is provided to the NFLPA, cannot be the basis of any claim of collusion. The NFLPA or the affected Player shall have the right to appeal the Commissioner’s disapproval of such player contract to the System Arbitrator, pursuant to Article 15 and Article 14.
Section 6. Burden of Proof: The failure by a Club or Clubs to negotiate, to submit Offer Sheets, or to sign contracts with Restricted Free Agents or Transition Players, or to negotiate, make offers, or sign contracts for the playing services of such players or Unrestricted Free Agents, shall not, by itself or in combination only with evidence about the playing skills of the player(s) not receiving any such offer or contract, satisfy the burden of proof set forth in Section 1 above. However, any of the types of evidence described in the preceding sentence may support a finding of a violation of Section 1 of this Article, but only in combination with other evidence which, by itself or in combination with such evidence, indicates that the challenged conduct was in violation of Section 1 of this Article. Nothing in this Agreement shall preclude the NFL or its Clubs from arguing that any evidence is insufficient to satisfy the burden of proof set forth in Section 5 above. Nothing in this Agreement shall preclude the NFLPA or any player from arguing that any evidence is sufficient to satisfy the burden of proof set forth in Section 5 above, except as set forth above.