Tom Sorensen

Signing Eric Reid wouldn’t be a popular move by Panthers. But it’s the right one.

The Carolina Panthers shouldn’t avoid free agent safety Eric Reid, center, because he takes a knee. They shouldn’t pursue him because he takes a knee.
The Carolina Panthers shouldn’t avoid free agent safety Eric Reid, center, because he takes a knee. They shouldn’t pursue him because he takes a knee. AP

The NFL is a tough guy league. A player gets knocked down on artificial turf as accommodating as a hardwood floor and gets back up. A guy that weighs 335 pounds gets a running start and sacks a quarterback that weighs more than 100 pounds less. The quarterback gets up. A short receiver reaches for a short pass ball and is hammered by a linebacker who had not been small since fifth grade. The receiver gets up.

So let’s find out how tough the NFL really is. There’s a free agent safety named Eric Reid. He was a first-round pick in the 2013 draft. That was the draft in which the Carolina Panthers took defensive tackles Star Lotulelei 13th and Kawann Short 44th. The San Francisco 49ers took Reid, from LSU, 18th.

Reid is 6-1, 213 pounds and 26-years-old. He is a first-class tackler, he is available and the Panthers can afford him.

They can afford him because Bashaud Breeland, the Washington Redskins cornerback whom Carolina signed to a three-year $24 million contract, failed his physical. Reid likely will cost Carolina a little more, but not much more.

The mystery is why, in a tough-guy league such as the NFL, Reid hasn’t been signed.

Only in a league that does not feature tough guys and tough owners and tough general managers and tough coaches would Reid be ignored and dismissed because for the last two seasons he has taken a knee during the national anthem.

The knee is not an affront to servicemen or police officers. There is fake news, and there are fake arguments. That’s a fake argument. Taking a knee is a quiet and nonviolent way to draw attention to racial injustice.

The action offends many NFL owners, executives, coaches and fans. That’s their right. But instead of attacking or blackballing players who drop to a knee during the anthem, why not put your hand over your heart, think about the words you’re hearing and loudly sing? The U.S. is a vast country, and there is room for a multitude of opinions, as the politicians for which we vote attests.

The Panthers shouldn’t avoid Reid because he takes a knee. They shouldn’t pursue him because he takes a knee. They should pursue him because they need a safety, and because the man can play.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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