Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid have reached a settlement with the NFL concerning their collusion grievances against the league, it was announced Friday.
“For the past several months, counsel for Mr. Kaepernick and Mr. Reid have engaged in an ongoing dialogue with representatives of the NFL,” attorney Mark Geragos and the NFL said in a joint statement issued Friday. “As a result of those discussions, the parties have decided to resolve the pending grievances. The resolution of this matter is subject to a confidentiality agreement so there will be no further comment by any party.”
Kaepernick filed a grievance in October 2017 under the collective bargaining agreement, alleging collusion against signing him to an NFL contract.
The filing, which demanded an arbitration hearing on the matter, said the NFL and its owners “have colluded to deprive Mr. Kaepernick of employment rights in retaliation for Mr. Kaepernick’s leadership and advocacy for equality and social justice and his bringing awareness to peculiar institutions still undermining racial equality in the United States.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, along with several owners and at least two other NFL executives, were selected to be deposed and asked to turn over all cellphone records and emails in relation to Kaepernick’s case against the NFL.
Kaepernick drew national attention in 2016 when he knelt during the national anthem before games to protest social injustice. His kneeling led to a movement that has spread throughout the league while also being vilified by some, including President Donald Trump.
Reid was the first player to join Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality.
Kaepernick has not been with an NFL team since severing his contract with the 49ers in March 2017. Reid, who played for the 49ers from 2013 to 2017, signed with the Panthers before the team’s fourth game of the 2018 season and received a three-year deal earlier this week worth more than $22 million.
Kaepernick and Reid faced a difficult challenge to meet the burden of proof for collusion as defined in the league’s CBA. The statute makes clear that unemployment alone does not mean collusion occurred.
According to the CBA: “The failure by a club or clubs to negotiate, to submit offer sheets, or to sign contracts with restricted free agents or transition players, or to negotiate, make offers, or sign contracts for the playing services of such players or unrestricted free agents, shall not, by itself or in combination only with evidence about the playing skills of the player(s) not receiving any such offer or contract, satisfy the burden of proof set forth ….”
To prove collusion, according to the CBA, Kaepernick and Reid would have had to show that a “club, its employees or agents” had “entered into an agreement” to restrict or limit whether to offer them a contract.
Kaepernick did not go through the NFL Players Association in filing the grievance but instead hired Geragos, who has represented several high-profile clients, including Michael Jackson, former NASCAR driver Jeremy Mayfield and musician Chris Brown. The NFLPA offered Kaepernick its support and reiterated its readiness to assist him, “as we do all players.”
The NFLPA on Friday said that while it did not know the details of the settlement, it supported the decision by Kaepernick and Reid.
“We continuously supported Colin and Eric from the start of their protests, participated with their lawyers throughout their legal proceedings and were prepared to participate in the upcoming trial in pursuit of both truth and justice for what we believe the NFL and its clubs did to them,” the statement said. “We are glad that Eric has earned a job and a new contract, and we continue to hope that Colin gets his opportunity as well.”
Last May, the NFLPA filed a grievance against the NFL on Reid’s behalf, alleging that team owners and the league, influenced by Trump, colluded to prevent his employment because of his protests.
He continued to kneel last season after signing with the Panthers. It did not become a distraction, and Reid was supported by his teammates, although no other players knelt.
“We always knew he was a solid football player, and he showed it to us,” coach Ron Rivera told the team website.
Reid started the final 13 games last season, finishing with 73 tackles, 5 passes defensed, 1 interception and 1 sack.
He said he was drug tested seven times this past season. He implied that the tests were not random, as stated in the CBA.
“The NFL released a statement saying I was not targeted, and I believe otherwise,” Reid has said.
ESPN’s Kevin Seifert contributed to this report.