San Francisco 49ers' safety Eric Reid was a staple alongside Colin Kaepernick last year, kneeling with the woke quarterback during the national anthem for the entire 2016 season as a protest against racism and the police brutality of unarmed Black men.
However, early into this preseason — even after the white supremacists' terror in Charlottesville — Reid stuck with his decision to not kneel during the national anthem this season.
However, after intense reconsideration, which included thinking, praying and talking to his former teammate Kaepernick, Reid had a "change of heart." The 25-year-old knelt during the national anthem before the 49ers' road preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night with his teammates wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, linebacker Eli Harold and fellow safety Lorenzo Jerome each placing a hand on his shoulder in support. If Harold's name rings a bell, it's because he joined Kaepernick and Reid in kneeling during the anthem last season.
After the game, Reid explained why he changed his mind and went back to silent protesting.
"I just had a change of heart," Reid told a pool of reporters after the Niners' 32-31 loss, as reported by ESPN.com. "A lot of thinking, a lot of praying, talking to Colin [Kaepernick]. When we started last year, if you recall, our goal was to raise awareness and shed light on the issues that were happening in our country. I think we accomplished that. What I was upset about was the false narratives that were being told about us, people were saying we're un-American, that we're against police entirely and the military. And that just wasn't true. At first, I thought that was a small sacrifice to pay to get the word out to raise awareness, and I settled with thinking that raising that awareness was victory."
But weeks removed from the ultra-disturbing events in Charlottesville, Reid knew he had to re-commit to his stance and kneel once again.
"Then fast-forward to Charlottesville, and the country sees what an un-American protest really looks like. That's when I had my change of heart, because what Colin, Eli and I did was a peaceful protest fueled by faith in God to help make our country a better place," Reid continued. "And I feel like I needed to regain control of that narrative and not let people say that what we're doing is un-American, because it's not. It's completely American. We're doing it because we want equality for everyone. We want our country to be a better place, so that's why I decided to resume the protest."
Salute, Eric. His "change of heart" comes on the heels of a community-driven protest held outside of NFL headquarters in New York City last week, when people demanded for the league to explain why Kaepernick is being blackballed from getting another QB gig, while also imploring that it creates a bylaw that would protect players' jobs while they speak out about socially conscious issues.
We have already witnessed several NFL players kneel during the national anthem this preseason. It will be interesting to see how many more players protest once the regular season kicks off next Thursday, September 7.
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(Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)