Panthers' Eric Reid will continue silent protest this season: 'It feels like we're going backwards'

As he continues to work to get more comfortable in the Carolina Panthers’ defense, safety Eric Reid still has the time and desire to keep track of what’s going on in the world beyond the locker room doors.

And he’s not a fan of what he’s seeing.

‘It feels like we’re going backwards’

Reid confirmed to the Charlotte Observer’s Scott Fowler that he will continue to kneel during the pre-game playing of the national anthem this season – his friend and former teammate Colin Kaepernick began kneeling in part to shine light on issues of racial injustice, and Reid believes that light is still necessary.

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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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“If a day comes that I feel like we’ve addressed those issues, and our people aren’t being discriminated against or being killed over traffic violations, then I’ll decide it’s time to stop protesting,” Reid said. “I haven’t seen that happen.”

Not only does Reid believe things aren’t improving, he feels they’re getting a bit worse.

“It feels like we’re going backwards,” Reid said. “You’d like to think we’re past certain things, the way we treat people. I thought we were at a time where you love your neighbor as yourself. But as I’ve studied history -- it hasn’t repeated itself necessarily, but it’s dressed a little different and is acting the same.”

Panthers owner David Tepper has no problem with Reid’s silent protest, saying last year that it’s “dead wrong” to accuse players of being unpatriotic.

‘We’ve got to keep fighting’

Reid spent most of the summer in South Africa, where his wife, Jaid, was born and still has family. He finds the experience of spending time in Africa moving.

“I’ve been the past couple of years. To me, it’s very powerful. Obviously I descend from Africa…[I’ve done] my ancestry and know which parts of Africa I descend from.

“I think that’s something that we as black people in this country have been robbed of. I compare it to my brother’s wife, who is Hispanic. She was born in America but her parents are from Honduras. She speaks Spanish. She knows the culture.

“But most black people, we were robbed of that. We don’t know our heritage. We don’t know what we descend from. We don’t speak a native language. We don’t know which part of the country we come from a lot of times. I don’t know past my great-grandfather — that’s lost. And we’ll never get it back. So being in Africa is powerful.”

With Reid signing a longer-term deal, the couple planned to move the family from New Jersey to Charlotte this offseason. They ultimately opted for Jaid and their two daughters to remain in New Jersey to give the girls stability.

Reid will focus on football, but fighting for social justice is never far from his mind.

“We’ve got to keep fighting,” Reid said. “Got to keep agitating. Got to keep making sure that we put pressure on the people who make the laws, and the decisions, in this country.”

10 PHOTOS
Eric Reid since joining the Carolina Panthers
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Eric Reid since joining the Carolina Panthers
Carolina Panthers' Eric Reid (25) kneels as Cam Newton (1) stands during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the New York Giants in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek)
Carolina Panthers strong safety Eric Reid, center, takes a knee during the playing of the national anthem prior to an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson (26) is stopped by Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid (25) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Baltimore Ravens' Chris Moore (10) runs after a catch ads Carolina Panthers' Eric Reid (25) defends in the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
Carolina Panthers' Eric Reid (25) reacts after making a stop during an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
Carolina Panthers' Eric Reid (25) returns an interception against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
Carolina Panthers' Eric Reid (25) kneels during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) is hit by Carolina Panthers strong safety Eric Reid (25) as he slides at the end of a run during the second half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Reid was ejected. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Carolina Panthers strong safety Eric Reid heads to the locker room after being ejected following a hit on Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during the second half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Carolina Panthers' Eric Reid (25) kneels during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
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Familiar new scheme

The Panthers signed Reid three games into the season last year, when injuries left them short at the safety position.

He came in during the bye week and did that best he could to learn the playbook; Reid ended up starting the final 13 games of the season. Carolina liked what it saw, and the team and Reid agreed to a three-year, $22 million extension this offseason.

The Panthers’ switch to a 3-4 defense this season could help, as the San Francisco 49ers played a 3-4 for much of Reid’s five years there.

“I expect him to take another step in the system,” coach Ron Rivera said of the 27-year-old Reid. “He’s a very good football player and he’s got tremendous athleticism. He’s the kind of guy who I think can really help solidify your unit.”

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