Carolina Panthers defensive back Eric Reid is one of several players kneeling during the national anthem this season and on Wednesday he said his coach “doesn’t have a choice” but to support him.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera has repeatedly backed Reid and said the defender has been exercising his First Amendment right, according to ESPN. Reid kneels during the “Star-Spangled Banner” to protest what he believes is social injustice across the U.S. He was one of the first players to kneel alongside former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when the pair were teammates.
“Very respectfully, he doesn't have a choice,” Reid told reporters about Rivera, according to ESPN. “He's entitled to his opinion, but I know what my rights are. His family was a military family much like many of my people were in the military. My cousin just got back from Afghanistan. My mom was in the armed services. My uncle was enlisted. The list goes on."
He continued: "But when they get home they're still black in America. They're going to fight the same wars when they get home and still face the same things I'm talking about. So I get encouragement from my family that served in the armed forces because they agree with what I'm saying.”
Reid said he still plans on kneeling this weekend when the Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Panthers plan to honor the military as part of the NFL’s “Salute to Service Week.”
Reid went on to say he thinks of the injustices he’s seen and read about when he is kneeling.
“A lot of time it's anger, knowing the context in which that song was written during the battle, knowing the verses that were omitted from that song. That song was created talking about killing slaves,” Reid said about the “Star-Spangled Banner,” which has been accused of being a racist song.
Reid and Kaepernick have worked on community-oriented projects together. He broke from the NFL Players Coalition before the start of the season over allegations the group misled him about the league donating millions to charities the group supports.