It was clear something bothered Eric Reid before the Panthers’ 21-17 victory on Sunday over the Philadelphia Eagles. Not one to waste words, he left no doubt as to why after the game.
Reid had to be separated from Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins before kickoff on Sunday when the two exchanged words at midfield after the captains meeting. Before the altercation, Reid stared Jenkins down during player introductions and was restrained by Panthers receiver Devin Funchess and secondary coach Richard Rodgers when an official appeared to ask Reid to return to his sideline.
The Panthers’ safety criticized Jenkins, the founder of the NFL Players Coalition, for using the protest started by Colin Kaepernick for personal gain. In 2017, the Associated Press reported Reid left the Coalition after Jenkins did not include Kaepernick in the group’s meetings and attempted to mediate an end to protesting during the national anthem, according to the report.
“I believe there’s a lot of players who have stepped up for Colin,” Reid said. “I believe Malcolm capitalized on the situation — he co-opted the movement that was started by Colin to get his organization funded. It’s cowardly, he sold us out.”
“(Jenkins) was corrupt from the jump,” Reid added. “He knew what he was doing. His goal was to sell us out and he did that.”
Playing in his third game with the Panthers, Reid gestured toward the Eagles’ sideline throughout the first quarter and emotions came to a head when he hit quarterback Carson Wentz after a handoff and wrestled with Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, who came to Wentz’s defense. Ertz and Reid drew offsetting penalties.
As the drama settled over the remainder of the game, neither player let their emotions heavily influence their impact on the game. Jenkins finished with a team-high seven tackles and two pass deflections; Reid finished with eight tackles and nearly intercepted Wentz on the Eagles’ final drive.
After the game, while Reid vented his frustrations, Jenkins said he’s relieved Reid is back in the league and harbors no bad feelings toward him or Kaepernick.
“You couldn’t pay me to say anything negative about them,” Jenkins said. “I look around the league and I’m proud of guys that are active in their communities, that are using their voice as a platform like never before — including Colin and including Eric. I think he deserves to have a job in this league, I’m glad that he does have one. I think that his talent is speaking for itself. I think his stance is the only reason he was not in the league.
“I’m glad that was rectified, I think right now what’s happening in the context of our country and athletics is unprecedented. I’m proud to be a part of that and a part of everybody that’s been moving that needle.”
Both players speak against similar issues — including systemic oppression within the United States’ criminal justice system and inequalities within the nation’s educational system. Jenkins and 2015 Walter Payton Man of the Year Anquan Boldin founded the Players Coalition in 2017 to “end social injustices and racial inequality so future generations have opportunity to thrive without barriers,” according to its website.
That’s not to say Reid and Jenkins always saw eye-to-eye. While Reid, Kaepernick and dozens of other NFL players opted to kneel during the national anthem, Jenkins instead raised his fist in the air.
Reid took that as a sign Jenkins had the league’s best interests at heart, not the protesters’. When Jenkins asked the Players Coalition if it would consider ending its protests if the NFL donated money to causes important to coalition members, Reid hit his breaking point and left the group.
Jenkins stands by his efforts and said reconciliation between him and Reid will happen “in due time.” Reid agreed to an extent but won’t forget the events that brought them to this point.
“Of course I can forgive him,” Reid said. “He’s done what he’s done, he knew what he was doing the entire time he was doing it. He had a goal and that’s what he set out to do.”