Eric Reid: It’s disheartening and infuriating that Trump has referred to us with slurs but the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville are 'very fine people'

San Francisco 49ers quarterback explains why players are protesting

Rachael Revesz
Tuesday 26 September 2017 13:06 BST
Eric Reid (left) kneels in protest during national anthem next to Colin Kaepernick in 2016
Eric Reid (left) kneels in protest during national anthem next to Colin Kaepernick in 2016 (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

NFL player Eric Reid has said it was “infuriating” that President Trump used “racial slurs” against athletes protesting in the name of civil rights while praising neo-Nazis in Virginia.

Mr Reid, a safety for the San Francisco 49ers, defended his and other players’ right to kneel on the field during the national anthem as a “respectful” protest movement in response to police brutality against people of colour.

“I have too often seen our efforts belittled with statements like ‘He should have listened to the officer,’ after watching an unarmed black person get shot, or ‘There is no such thing as white privilege’ and ‘Racism ended years ago.’ We know that racism and white privilege are both very much alive today,” he wrote in a New York Times op-ed.

"And it’s disheartening and infuriating that President Trump has referred to us with slurs but the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., as ‘very fine people’.

"His remarks are a clear attempt to deepen the rift that we’ve tried so hard to mend."

Mr Reid’s comments follow President Trump lambasting athletes on Twitter, tweeting more about the NFL over the last few days than any other subject.

The President said at an Alabama rally at the weekend that he would urge NFL chiefs to get any “son of a b**** off the field” who refused to stand and even called for a boycott of NFL games.

Mr Trump insisted his comments about their protests were “nothing to do with race”, rather they were to do with “respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem”, as he wrote on Twitter.

He recently came under fire for saying there were “very fine people on both sides” of the Charlottesville protests in August, including a protest by a group of neo-Nazis and a counter protest, during which campaigner Heather Heyer was killed.

The NFL protest movement was sparked by Colin Kaepernick, a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, who decided to sit down during the national anthem. Mr Reid joined him and they decided to kneel.

Dallas Cowboys display own message of defiance to Donald Trump after NFL anthem protests

The move sparked furious controversy, and Mr Kaepernick was not hired for a 2017 contract.

His initial protest has led to a wider movement, including dozens of NFL players kneeling in London this week, with President Trump's latest comments arguably acting as a catalyst.

In the US, the Dallas Cowboys and the team’s owner locked arms and knelt on the ground. President Trump described the boos in the stadium as “great anger” from US citizens.

The protests have also spread to basketball and baseball, in the men’s and women’s teams.

"Anybody who has a basic knowledge of football knows that his unemployment has nothing to do with his performance on the field," wrote Mr Reid in the New York Times.

"It’s a shame that the league has turned its back on a man who has done only good. I am aware that my involvement in this movement means that my career may face the same outcome as Colin’s. But to quote the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” And I choose not to betray those who are being oppressed."

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