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Spurred by anthem protest questions, NFLPA grievance points at Bengals

The NFL Players Association on Monday filed a non-injury grievance on behalf of safety Eric Reid.

In the grievance, the NLFPA refers to Reid’s free-agent visit last month with the Bengals, although it doesn’t specifically name the organization. The visit reportedly included conversations and questions about protesting during the national anthem.

“Prior to the start of the current NFL off-season, our Union directed the agents of free agent players who had participated in peaceful on-field demonstrations to collect, memorialize and report any relevant information about potential violations of the Collective Bargaining Agreement by teams,” the NFLPA said in a press release.

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“The cases,” it continued, “were filed based upon the following:

  • There is no League rule that prohibits players from demonstrating during the national anthem.
  • The NFL has made it clear both publicly and to the NFLPA that they would respect the rights of players to demonstrate.
  • The Collective Bargaining Agreement definitively states that League (NFL) rules supersede any conflicting club rules.
  • According to our information, a club appears to have based its decision not to sign a player based on the player’s statement that he would challenge the implementation of a club’s policy prohibiting demonstration, which is contrary to the League policy.
  • At least one club owner has asked pre-employment interview questions about a player’s intent to demonstrate. We believe these questions are improper, given League policy.

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Reid met with the Bengals on April 9 and, according to a report from Pro Football Talk, team president and owner Mike Brown initiated discussion about kneeling during the anthem.

›› HARTMAN: Of course the Bengals would ask Reid about kneeling

Reid made headlines in 2016 when, as a member of the San Francisco 49ers, he took a knee alongside quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the national anthem as a way to protest social injustice and specifically police shootings of black men.

Kaepernick, the 49ers backup quarterback, has not played since 2016 and in November filed a grievance against the NFL and its owners, accusing them of collusion in not hiring him.

Reid, a first-round pick in 2013, was still under contract with the 49ers in 2017 and appeared in 13 games with 12 starts. The 26-year-old Reid played in 70 games in five seasons with San Francisco and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie.

He previously had said he did not plan to protest in 2018, but Reid declined to answer Brown’s questions about it during their meeting, according to the report.

The Bengals issued the following statement following the Pro Football Talk article: “The Club conducts many interviews with players throughout the year. The Club views these interviews as confidential and does not comment on them.”

On Monday the Bengals declined to comment on the grievance.

The NFLPA press release said the union “will continue to monitor these events.”

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