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Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid settle collusion grievances against NFL and teams

Eric Reid, left, and Colin Kaepernick have settled their collusion grievances against the NFL and teams.

The NFL and Colin Kaerpernick announced Friday they’ve reached a settlement in the case in which the quarterback accused the league and its 32 teams of colluding to prevent him from playing because of his decision to kneel during the playing of the national anthem.
The terms of the settlement were not disclosed, leaving those in and around the NFL to speculate about what it might have cost the league and team owners to avoid a hearing in the case.

The sideline protest by Kaepernick, which he began in 2016 to call attention to racial inequality and police mistreatment of African Americans, ignited a polarizing movement of NFL players protesting during the national anthem and made him an internationally recognized civil rights advocate.
A related collusion grievance by Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid, formerly Kaepernick’s teammate with the San Francisco 49ers who protested alongside him, also was resolved. Reid is currently with the Carolina Panthers.

So Geragos and Kaepernick didn’t have to show only that Kaepernick belonged on an NFL roster, was better than other quarterbacks who were on rosters or was being kept out of the league because of his protests. They had to prove to Burbank, legal experts said, that teams conspired with each other or with the league office to keep Kaepernick from playing.

Outside observers frequently pointed over the last two seasons to the quality of other quarterbacks being signed by NFL teams, while Kaepernick remained unsigned, contending that Kaepernick was being blackballed because of his protests. When the Washington Redskins said they considered signing Kaepernick late this past season but decided against it for football reasons, Geragos said: “Isn’t it obvious what’s happening?”
But NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell denied that collusion had taken place, saying whenever asked about the Kaepernick matter that teams make their own independent decisions about players. Kaepernick and Geragos had not disclosed what evidence, if any, they might have had of collusion.

“How many owners do you need to prove collusion? . . . [T]he world may never know!!” Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins wrote Friday on Twitter.
Some observers expressed a measure of disappointment that the case did not play out to a conclusion.
“The clandestine activities (whether formal or informal) [that] have impacted Kaep/Reid will remain clandestine in application to others who come behind them,” former agent and NFL salary cap expert J.I. Halsell wrote on Twitter.

If the case had gone to a hearing and Burbank had ruled in Kaepernick’s favor, the arbitrator could have awarded Kaepernick damages based on the economic harm suffered by the quarterback. There also could have been additional damages, under a finding of collusion, that would have been a multiple of the compensatory damages. If a large enough number of teams had been found guilty of colluding, the union could have secured the right to void the remainder of the collective bargaining agreement.

Agents and employees of some teams not connected to the case were speculating Friday about the possibility of the settlement being in the tens of millions of dollars. But Tobias said it was difficult to estimate.

“It’s hard to know,” Tobias said in a phone interview. “We may never know. You just don’t want to roll the dice. The NFL could have lost. Kaepernick could have gotten this far and still lost. That’s how you get to yes [on a settlement], I would say. It’s a classic sort of settlement scenario. I’m sure the NFL didn’t want any more bad publicity. Kaepernick, to some degree, is vindicated. He took a principled stand and saw it through.”

Kaepernick was not signed by any team as a free agent after opting out of his contract with the 49ers following the 2016 season. The 49ers said they would have released Kaepernick under the terms of that contract if he had not opted out of the deal.

The controversy peaked during the fall of 2017 after Trump said at a rally that owners should fire any player who protests during the anthem. In an effort to defuse the issue, owners negotiated a social justice deal with the Players Coalition, a group led by Jenkins and former NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin, in late 2017. The deal provides funding by teams and the league to players’ social activism. Reid withdrew from the Players Coalition and had an on-field confrontation with Jenkins this past season, accusing Jenkins of selling out to the league.

Owners modified the league’s national anthem policy before this past season but abandoned the revised policy soon after, then avoided revisiting the issue when the protests and controversy subsided during a 2018 season in which TV ratings rebounded.

“I think what you saw this year were players who still had the right to protest if they chose to do so,” DeMaurice Smith, the NFLPA’s executive director, said late last month in Atlanta during Super Bowl week. “Regardless of whether it falls in or out of the public eye, that’s not something we really spend a whole lot of time thinking about. Our job was to make sure that we did everything we could to protect our players’ rights.”

Kaepernick later became the centerpiece of a controversial ad campaign by Nike and recently rebuffed the interest of the fledgling Alliance of American Football, with the Associated Press reporting that he sought $20 million to play in the new league.

Reid played this past season for the Panthers. He protested alongside Kaepernick during the 2016 season, while with the 49ers, and has continued those protests since then. Reid just signed a three-year contract extension with the Panthers worth nearly $21.7 million.

The NFL previously prevailed in a separate grievance brought by the NFLPA accusing the Cincinnati Bengals of acting improperly by asking Reid about his protests during an offseason free agent visit

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