The NFL’s $89 million pledge to fund social-justice causes comes at the expense of the league’s support for breast cancer and military charities, the protesting-player kneeling for the national anthem longer than any other active athlete claims.
“In the discussion that we had, Malcolm [Jenkins] conveyed to us—based on discussions that he had with the NFL—that the money would come from funds that are already allocated to breast cancer awareness and Salute to Service,” San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid told Slate. “So it would really be no skin off the owners’ backs: They would just move the money from those programs to this one.”
Reid’s disgust over the deal led to his resignation from the Players Coalition, a group started by Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and retired wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Reid departed from the group along with Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas, who, like Reid, continues to kneel for the national anthem.
Reid says Jenkins and the Players Coalition leadership went rogue in agreeing to a deal that did not receive the blessing of the group’s members. “We didn’t agree with that,” he told Slate, “because we weren’t trying to cut other worthy programs.”
Reid speculates that the pressure exerted on Jenkins to accept the deal came about because of Roger Goodell’s contract negotiations. The NFL commissioner, who seeks a lucrative new deal, endures criticism that jeopardizes that deal from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for his mishandling of the on-field protests. The agreement with players, Reid speculates, helps Goodell make a deal with the owners.
Reid, who joined then-teammate Colin Kaepernick in refusing to rise for the national anthem in 2016, tells Slate.com that, contrary to the NFL’s claims, the league did view their much-discussed financial pledge as a quid pro quo to get players to stop the pregame sideline demonstrations.
“When he asked me if I would end the protest in exchange for the donation and to announce the partnership for the proposal on Thursday,” Reid says of Jenkins, “I was like, ‘Dude, no.’”