Source: President Trump is Eric Reid’s top target in collusion grievance vs. NFL

When Eric Reid filed a grievance against the NFL this week, it highlighted a string of legal breadcrumbs left for months in Colin Kaepernick’s collusion case brought against the league. And now more than ever, those breadcrumbs appear to be leading to one person: President Donald Trump.

A source who has viewed Reid’s confidential collusion filing against the NFL told Yahoo Sports that Trump is the crystal-clear target in the complaint. Specifically, the direct role Trump allegedly played in aligning NFL owners against players who had chosen to kneel as a form of silent protest, an act designed by the players to raise social awareness and promote racial equality, among other pursuits. The source said Reid’s complaint is anchored almost entirely to allegations of direct, but apparently still undefined, communications between Trump and NFL owners, which caused owners to take adverse action against Reid and other players. The “other players” include Kaepernick, but may not be limited to the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback.

The source added that the direct communications between Trump and NFL owners are alleged to have taken place both privately and publicly. Presumably, the public communications would include the litany of statements Trump has made about kneeling players on a wide variety of platforms, including speeches, interviews and his own Twitter account. The private communications likely include Trump’s verified personal phone calls with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, but could encompass other conversations that have yet to be revealed.

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Eric Reid protesting during the national anthem
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Eric Reid protesting during the national anthem
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 12: Colin Kaepernick #7 and Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel in protest during the national anthem prior to playing the Los Angeles Rams in their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on September 12, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 18: Eric Reid #35 and Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel on the sideline, during the anthem, prior to the game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Panthers defeated the 49ers 46-27. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 12: Colin Kaepernick #7 and Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel in protest during the national anthem prior to playing the Los Angeles Rams in their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on September 12, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 25: (L-R) fFee safety Eric Reid #35, quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 and outside linebacker Eli Harold #58 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel on the sidelines during the national anthem before the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on September 25, 2016 in Seattle,Washington. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 02: (L-R) Eli Harold #58, Colin Kaepernick #7 and Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel on the sideline during the National Anthem prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi's Stadium on October 2, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 6: Eli Harold #58. Colin Kaepernick #7 and Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel on the sideline during the anthem prior to the game against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi Stadium on October 6, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. The Cardinals defeated the 49ers 33-21. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 15: Eli Harold #58, Colin Kaepernick #7 and Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel in protest on the sideline, during the anthem, prior to the game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on October 16, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York. The Bills defeated the 49ers 45-16. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 23: Eric Reid #35, Colin Kaepernick #7 and Eli Harold #58 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel in protest during the national anthem prior to their NFL game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi's Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 16: Eli Harold #58 of the San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers (not shown) and Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the national anthem before the game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on October 16, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 13: Eric Reid #35, Colin Kaepernick #7 and Eli Harold #58 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel on the sideline, during the anthem, the game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on November 13, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the 49ers 23-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 27: Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneels dugout the National Anthem before the preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings on August 27, 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 11: Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneels on the sideline, during the anthem, prior to the game against the New York Jets at Levi Stadium on December 11, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. The Jets defeated the 49ers 23-17. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 10: Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers leads the team in a 'call to attention' during the anthem, prior to the game against the Carolina Panthers at Levi's Stadium on September 10, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. The Panthers defeated the 49ers 23-3. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 26: Eli Harold #57, Eric Reid #35 and Marquise Goodwin #11 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel on the sideline, during the anthem, prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi's Stadium on November 26, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. The Seahawks defeated the 49ers 24-13. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 24: Eli Harold #57, Eric Reid #35, Marquise Goodwin #11 and Louis Murphy #18 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel on the sideline as Adrian Colbert #38 stands with them in solidarity, during the anthem, prior to the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Levi's Stadium on December 24, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. The 49ers defeated the Jaguars 44-33. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - OCTOBER 8: Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers leads the team as they kneel and stand together during the anthem prior to the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 8, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Colts defeated the 49ers 26-23. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 31: Eli Harold #57, Eric Reid #35, Marquise Goodwin #11 and Louis Murphy #18 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the anthem as Reuben Foster #56 and Adrian Colbert #38 stand in solidarty, prior to the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 31, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. The 49ers defeated the Rams 34-13. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
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How is this different from Kaepernick’s case?

While portions of Reid’s complaint sound like a rehash of the collusion allegation filed by Kaepernick, there is one key difference that could make Reid’s more revealing: It comes in the wake of months of discovery and depositions by the attorneys who now represent both Kaepernick and Reid. This may make Reid’s collusion filing more telling because it has the benefit of being focused through reams of private information that wasn’t available when Kaepernick filed his complaint last October.

Reid’s lawyers may feel they already have the evidence of collusion they need because it has been revealed during the course of Kaepernick’s discovery process.

This is what makes the spotlighting of Trump in this latest filing so telling. Consider: When Kaepernick filed his collusion complaint nearly seven months ago, the focus of allegations was wide, pointing not only at Trump, but also at commissioner Roger Goodell, other NFL executives, as well as the league’s entire ownership group. Make no mistake, Reid’s filing still points an accusatory finger at the NFL’s ownership and executive ranks. But it apparently paints Trump as the driving force behind the depths of the league’s motivation to keep both Kaepernick and Reid out of the league.

That’s an important distinction when comparing the two collusion complaints. And it suggests that during the process of discovery, the attorneys for Kaepernick and Reid have cultivated evidence putting Trump at center stage. Evidence that either came from the massive swath of discovery documents requested from a number of league executives and owners – or directly from the depositions of league power brokers.

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Fans show support for Colin Kaepernick
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Fans show support for Colin Kaepernick
Sep 12, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; A San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (not pictured) fan holds a sign after the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Levi's Stadium. The 49ers won 28-0. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
At the start of the game protestors take a knee in support of the movement started by NFL player Colin Kaepernick, outside Lincoln Financial Field, in South Philadelphia, PA, on September 24, 2017. Similar protest are staged around the nation after US President Donald Trump named Kaepernick a Son of A Bitch at a recent rally. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
At the start of the game protestors take a knee in support of the movement started by NFL player Colin Kaepernick, outside Lincoln Financial Field, in South Philadelphia, PA, on September 24, 2017. Similar protest are staged around the nation after US President Donald Trump named Kaepernick a Son of A Bitch at a recent rally. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, USA - SEPTEMBER 10: Protesters stage a rally against the National Football League (NFL), supporting Colin Kaepernick, outside the Soldier Field stadium in Chicago, United States on September 10, 2017. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - AUGUST 23 : People participate in a rally against the National Football League (NFL), supporting Colin Kaepernick in Manhattan borough of New York, United States on August 23, 2017. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
01 September 2016: A fan supports San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the NFL preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 01: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers signs autographs for fans after a 31-21 win over the San Diego Chargers during a preseason game at Qualcomm Stadium on September 1, 2016 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Sep 25, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) shoots a selfie with fans outside the locker room during pre game warmups against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 01: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers signs autographs for fans after a 31-21 win over the San Diego Chargers during a preseason game at Qualcomm Stadium on September 1, 2016 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 12: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers signs an autograph for a fan prior to playing the Los Angeles Rams in their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on September 12, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 04: A fan dressed up as Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers watches from the seats during the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 4, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the 49ers 26-6. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 16: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers interacts with fans before the game against the Buffalo Bills on October 16, 2016 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo defeats San Francisco 45-16. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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Secret recording of owners meeting becomes bigger

Thus far, at least two depositions appear to have been heavily focused on Trump’s involvement: That of Jones, who admitted last season to having conversations with the president about kneeling players; and that of Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who admitted publicly to having changed his view of kneeling players after Trump framed the focus of the act as being anti-military.

While it’s not known precisely what the depositions of Jones and Ross produced, it’s significant that both were taken before Reid’s Trump-focused collusion complaint was filed. Not to mention the reality that Reid’s complaint also came after a recent New York Times revelation that a private meeting between a handful of NFL owners and protesting players in November was secretly recorded. The Times quoted directly from that recording, which included several instances of owners expressing concern over Trump’s attacks on the league due to kneeling players.

Viewed in the wider scope, the points of information are leading straight to one place. From the direction of the depositions, to the surreptitiously recorded meeting between players and owners, to a pair of collusion cases that apparently now share a unifying theme.

Seven months ago, Trump was a strong figure in alleged NFL collusion. Today, he’s the center of it.

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