Eric Reid confirmed that the NFL’s $89 million commitment to social justice causes isn’t as directly positive a move as it might seem—telling Slate on Thursday that the league presented players with a plan to make the donation by diverting money from other charitable ventures, like breast cancer awareness and the monthlong celebration of the military that is “Salute to Service.”
Reid left the Players Coalition, the group that’s been negotiating with the league in light of the national anthem protests, earlier this week. He wasn’t the only one. Earlier reporting by Slate indicated that Reid was asked if he’d stop protesting during the anthem if the league made a donation. (Just a day after that story ran, one of the Players Coalition’s leaders, Malcolm Jenkins, announced that he’d cease his own protests.) Essentially, there was already plenty to imply that this donation wasn’t the result of the NFL’s earnest desire to help social justice causes. And Reid’s interview makes it that much clearer:
“[NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell is trying to make this as easy for the owners to agree to as possible so that—again, their goal is to end the protests,” Reid said. “He’s trying to make it as easy possible to do that for the owners. He’s going to present them with a proposal saying, Look you really don’t have to do anything. We’re just going to shift this money from this area and just move it here.”
The 49ers safety told Slate that the idea of moving the money away from other charitable causes was unacceptable to him and the other players who left the Coalition, and the plan contributed in their decision to leave the group and stop negotiating with the league. Reid also confirmed that the person who had directly asked him to stop protesting was Jenkins, whom he described as the only player he knew of who had protested during the anthem and now accepted the NFL’s proposal:
“Based on my understanding, every player who was actually protesting [aside from Jenkins] was not in agreement [with] this proposal,” Reid told Slate. “That leaves a remaining, I guess, nine or so players who don’t protest who were in agreement with the proposal.... I think [it’s] obvious that these [nine non-protesters] are people who have not sacrificed their careers, who Malcolm is using as his backing to say that the coalition is in agreement.”
The $89 million donation is a seven-year commitment and is built to include an annual contribution from both team owners and players. Reid further confirmed the prior reporting that a sizable chunk of the donation would not be earmarked for specific organizations or purposes and rather would be spent at the discretion of a committee that would primarily be made up of those representing league and team office interests, rather than players.
In other words, the NFL asked players to stop protesting racial injustice in exchange for a charitable donation by the league—which is, on its own, at best a gross misunderstanding of the players’ motivation here and at worst a craven move to prioritize public image over all else—only for that charitable donation to be the result of money shuffled over from other charitable spending, with a strong possibility that half of the money wouldn’t even be going directly to charity.
“It would really be no skin off the owners’ backs,” Reid told Slate. It never is.