Colin Kaepernick's Former Teammate Marked His Return To The NFL By Taking A Knee

"We've just got to do more to make this better."

On Sunday, safety Eric Reid won his first game with the Carolina Panthers. But that's not the only thing worth noting about his return to the NFL. Reid, who previously took a knee alongside Colin Kaepernick when they played for the San Francisco 49ers, resumed his protest against racial injustice during the national anthem.

According to the New York Times, Reid knelt alongside Kaepernick in 2016, and continued to kneel even as Kaepernick was unsigned. Reid was a free agent during the off-season earlier this year, and for the beginning of the new season, until he was signed by the Panthers to a one-year deal late last month.

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Both Kaepernick and Reid have filed grievances against the NFL, claiming collusion not to sign them due to their activism. On Sunday, Kaepernick posted a photo of Reid kneeling during the Panthers' game against the New York Giants, also shouting out Albert Wilson of the Miami Dolphins, who has taken a knee this season. "They are unwavering in their conviction!" he wrote.

He also added the hashtag #ImWithReid, perhaps in response to a T-shirt Reid wore last week during his first press conference since being signed to the new team. According to ESPN, it read #IMWITHKAP across the front.

"Everybody in this [locker room], everybody who watches this game [and] everybody in this country knows what we're talking about. It's the truth. You can't deny it. We've just got to do more to make this better," Reid said after Sunday's game, according to ESPN.

USA Today reports that Reid had said he was "still considering" whether to kneel during the anthem prior to the game. When he made his decision, he reportedly told his teammates and coach Ron Rivera what he planned to do. No other Panthers players chose to kneel with him.

According to ESPN, teammate Torrey Smith said last week that "no one cares" if Reid protests, adding, "We all understand what he's fighting for, so if that's something he decides to do, that's what he decides to do. But that has absolutely nothing to do with this locker room, the way we approach the game, the way we prepare and what we're trying to do."

Quarterback Cam Newton, meanwhile, praised Reid as a great addition to the team and said, "I'm going to stand by him knowing none of that will be a distraction for us winning football games."

"I'm not going to talk about a guy exercising his First Amendment rights," Coach Rivera said of Reid's decision to protest during a news conference after the game, according to the New York Times. "What I'm going to talk about is the football game, because to me it's about what happens on the football field."

Although the NFL introduced new rules requiring players to stand for the anthem earlier this year, that policy was suspended while the league is in talks with the Players Association over the issue. Last month, following the release of a Nike "Just Do It" ad featuring Colin Kaepernick, the NFL released a statement which read, in part, "The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action."

According to USA Today, Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson of the Dolphins have been the only other NFL players to take a knee this season. Their teammate Robert Quinn has shown solidarity by raising his fist. 

Reid reportedly called his return to the NFL on Sunday "bittersweet," adding, "We won the game, but Colin (Kaepernick) is home with my kids. He should be playing."

Cover image: Grant Halverson / Getty Images

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