As he continues to work to get more comfortable in the Carolina Panthers’ defense, safety Eric Reid still has the time and desire to keep track of what’s going on in the world beyond the locker room doors.
And he’s not a fan of what he’s seeing.
‘It feels like we’re going backwards’
Reid confirmed to the Charlotte Observer’s Scott Fowler that he will continue to kneel during the pre-game playing of the national anthem this season – his friend and former teammate Colin Kaepernick began kneeling in part to shine light on issues of racial injustice, and Reid believes that light is still necessary.
“If a day comes that I feel like we’ve addressed those issues, and our people aren’t being discriminated against or being killed over traffic violations, then I’ll decide it’s time to stop protesting,” Reid said. “I haven’t seen that happen.”
Not only does Reid believe things aren’t improving, he feels they’re getting a bit worse.
“It feels like we’re going backwards,” Reid said. “You’d like to think we’re past certain things, the way we treat people. I thought we were at a time where you love your neighbor as yourself. But as I’ve studied history – it hasn’t repeated itself necessarily, but it’s dressed a little different and is acting the same.”
Panthers owner David Tepper has no problem with Reid’s silent protest, saying last year that it’s “dead wrong” to accuse players of being unpatriotic.
‘We’ve got to keep fighting’
Reid spent most of the summer in South Africa, where his wife, Jaid, was born and still has family. He finds the experience of spending time in Africa moving.
“I’ve been the past couple of years. To me, it’s very powerful. Obviously I descend from Africa …[ I’ve done] my ancestry and know which parts of Africa I descend from.
“I think that’s something that we as black people in this country have been robbed of. I compare it to my brother’s wife, who is Hispanic. She was born in America but her parents are from Honduras. She speaks Spanish. She knows the culture.
“But most black people, we were robbed of that. We don’t know our heritage. We don’t know what we descend from. We don’t speak a native language. We don’t know which part of the country we come from a lot of times. I don’t know past my great-grandfather — that’s lost. And we’ll never get it back. So being in Africa is powerful.”
With Reid signing a longer-term deal, the couple planned to move the family from New Jersey to Charlotte this offseason. They ultimately opted for Jaid and their two daughters to remain in New Jersey to give the girls stability.
Reid will focus on football, but fighting for social justice is never far from his mind.
“We’ve got to keep fighting,” Reid said. “Got to keep agitating. Got to keep making sure that we put pressure on the people who make the laws, and the decisions, in this country.”
Familiar new scheme
The Panthers signed Reid three games into the season last year, when injuries left them short at the safety position.
He came in during the bye week and did that best he could to learn the playbook; Reid ended up starting the final 13 games of the season. Carolina liked what it saw, and the team and Reid agreed to a three-year, $22 million extension this offseason.
The Panthers’ switch to a 3-4 defense this season could help, as the San Francisco 49ers played a 3-4 for much of Reid’s five years there.
“I expect him to take another step in the system,” coach Ron Rivera said of the 27-year-old Reid. “He’s a very good football player and he’s got tremendous athleticism. He’s the kind of guy who I think can really help solidify your unit.”
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