CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Before the Panthers knocked out New York Sunday, the team’s newly-signed safety took a knee. Eric Reid, who just signed with Carolina last week, started his first game as a Panther in protest.
The former San Francisco 49er has been kneeling during the National Anthem to protest police brutality since his old teammate Colin Kaepernick started the movement during the 2016 season. After five years with San Francisco, Reid became a free agent in the off-season until the Panthers picked him up. However, even though Reid’s uniform has changed, he says his mission hasn’t.
“I can’t close my eyes and go to sleep at night without feeling like I did something to try to make those things better,” Reid said after Sunday’s game.
Reid is the first Panther to kneel during the anthem, but not the first to protest. Carolina Defensive End Julius Peppers never knelt, but did choose to stay in the locker room during the Star Spangled Banner last season. He didn’t join Reid in his display on Sunday, but says he stands with his new teammate.
“Obviously he’s a great player, he adds that to the team, he adds a sense of culture to the team. We’re embracing it and we’re going to support him in everything he chooses to do,” Peppers said Sunday.
Reid hasn’t been shy about what he stands for, claiming his opinions have kept other NFL teams from signing him in the past. He even filed a ‘collusion grievance’ against the NFL, similar to the one Kaepernick filed. Reid also showed up to his first media interview as a Panther, wearing a shirt with the hashtag “#IMWITHKAP” across the chest.
It’s clear the Panthers were well aware of Reid’s stance before signing him, and the team seems to be focusing on Reid’s plays instead of his politics.
“I’m not going to discuss a guy exercising his first amendment rights,” Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera said Monday about Reid’s kneeling.
“We all are entitled to our own opinion and as the man that he is, anything that he stands for, as a teammate, I’m going to stand with him, too,” Panthers Quarterback Cam Newton said Sunday.
The NFL did put a policy in place in May to fine teams whose players knelt during the National Anthem, but that policy was put on hold in July, so no action against the Panthers is expected at this time.