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Why did Eric Reid and other players withdraw from Players Coalition?

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The Players Coalition was founded to collaborate with the NFL to work toward solutions to the racial inequality players are protesting during the national anthem.

Malcolm Jenkins and Anquan Boldin founded the Players Coalition to team up with the NFL to work toward solutions to the problems of police brutality and racial injustice that drive player protests during the national anthem. Now three of its most prominent members have removed themselves from the organization.

49ers safety Eric Reid, Chargers tackle Russell Okung, and Dolphins safety Michael Thomas all announced on Tuesday they have withdrawn from the group.

Reid, who was the first player to join Colin Kaepernick in his protest in 2016, spoke to the media about his decision on Tuesday.

What’s behind the dispute between players? The league arranged a meeting with the Players Coalition in October, in the wake of President Donald Trump’s comments about player protests, to discuss the protests and how to address them. Jenkins said Kaepernick was invited. Kaepernick’s representatives say that wasn’t true.

The NFL has reportedly offered to donate $100 million to charities and organizations that support bettering law enforcement relationships with communities, criminal justice reform, and education reform. The Players Coalition and the NFL reportedly agreed in principle this week for the league to contribute at least $89 million to causes addressing those issues over a seven-year period.

Part of the dispute hinges on Reid’s claim that Jenkins left him and Thomas out of the discussion with the NFL related to the league’s donation and that he was “misled” throughout the process.

Reid is also concerned about where the funds for this initiative will come from.

“In the discussion that we had, Malcolm 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,” Reid said, via Jeremy Stahl of 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 added that the group relayed concerns to Jenkins about the way the Players Coalition was being managed.

“(We’re not) satisfied with the structure of the Coalition or the communication that Malcolm has been having with the NFL on his own, speaking on behalf of protesting players,” Reid said.

“Our concerns haven’t been reflected in the way the organization is being run,” he said.

Jenkins took exception with Reid’s claim, telling ESPN:

“They understood the entire scope of the plan. The last time we had conversations with (Roger) Goodell and Troy Vincent, Michael Thomas and Eric Reid were on that call. They understood the proposal. What we didn’t have was a conversation with players in the coalition based on some of the responses that we got from the league. We then talked about myself contracting Troy Vincent just to give them some updates on some of our feedback, which I did. That call did not have Mike or Eric on it. Everybody kind of agreed to that.”

Another factor behind the dispute is that Reid claims that Jenkins removed Kaepernick from the group.

“Malcolm kicked Colin out of the Coalition following the meeting in New York at the beginning of the season,” Reid said.

Jenkins also denied that assertion. He says that Kaepernick’s relationship with the group has always informal, at Kaepernick’s preference.

Reid says he was asked if he would stop kneeling for the anthem in light of the NFL’s proposal, according to ESPN’s Jim Trotter and Jason Reid. Trotter and Reid also reported that there was no quid pro quo from the NFL expecting players to stand in the wake of the donations.

What did players say about withdrawing from the Coalition? Reid and Thomas issued identical statements. They said they’d like to continue a productive discussion with the NFL, but not with Jenkins and Boldin as their representatives.

Russell Okung called the league’s proposal “disingenuous” and “woefully inadequate.”

Reid said he is considering forming his own organization to work toward change. He told ESPN that he speaks with Kaepernick every day and may just join forces with Kaepernick’s nonprofit instead.

Why are players protesting? This has nothing to do with the flag, the anthem, or the U.S. military. These players are protesting police brutality and inequality that’s rampant in this nation and disproportionately affects black Americans.

What led up to this? This started when Kaepernick was first seen sitting for the national anthem during the 2016 preseason. He explained he was using his platform to protest those issues. Reid joined him, and both later decided to kneel out of respect for the armed services. Other players around the league began to join the protests by sitting, kneeling, or raising a fist during the national anthem.

Kaepernick said he began his protest on behalf of those who don’t have the power to change things.

“This stand wasn’t for me,” Kaepernick said. “This is because I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice, people that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard, and effect change. So I’m in the position where I can do that and I’m going to do that for people that can’t.”

Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers after the 2016 season. He remains unemployed, almost certainly because of his decision to protest. He is currently suing the NFL for collusion.

The protests have become a common talking point for President Trump. He has repeatedly tweeted criticism of players who protest during the national anthem. He referred to any player who protests as a “son of a bitch” and has consistently called for NFL owners to fire players who don’t stand for the anthem. This set off league-wide shows of solidarity. The protests have continued in spite of ongoing backlash.


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