- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 3, 2017

At least two NFL players have said they won’t stand for the national anthem even if the team owners agree to pay out $89 million for social-justice causes.

Two of the leading protesters — Eric Reid of the San Francisco 49ers and Michael Thomas of the Miami Dolphins — told media outlets they would keep kneeling after they exited the newly formed Players Coalition, which has reportedly struck in principle an $89 million, seven-year deal with the league.

Reid called the agreement a “charade,” telling Slate that he had been informed by coalition leader Malcolm Jenkins that the owners would merely divert funding from their other charitable endeavors, such as Salute to Service and Breast Cancer Awareness.

Reid said that when Jenkins “asked me if I would end the protest in exchange for the donation and to announce the partnership for the proposal on Thursday, I was like, ‘Dude, no.’”

“I feel like I would be a hypocrite not to use my platform to speak up for people who are facing oppression in this country,” Reid said. “I did it and I still do it because I believe it’s worth letting people know that if we do this together, if we stand up together we can make change.”

Jenkins, who plays for the Philadelphia Eagles, said in a Thursday statement that the deal doesn’t include a provision requiring players to stand for the national anthem, but insisted that it has “always been about the issues,” including criminal-justice reform.

Leading the coalition are Jenkins and Anquan Boldin, neither of whom has knelt during the anthem on a regular basis this season — Jenkins has raised a fist and Boldin retired in August after 14 seasons — while Reid and Thomas have routinely refused to stand.

Referring to the $89 million deal, Thomas said, “I can’t do it. It’s not significant enough for me. I think way more could be done.”

“If we just get a statement saying, ‘Yes, we support our players and the cause that they’re fighting for, and we agree something needs to be done,’ and it genuinely comes from the league, we’ve … told them we’ll stand,” Thomas said to the [Palm Beach] Sun-Sentinel. “We’ve seen no such thing.”

Reid said that only about 17 players have participated regularly in the negotiations with ownership, as opposed to the 40 cited by the coalition, representing about 1 percent of the NFL’s 1,700 rostered players.

He told Slate that most of the protesting players aren’t on board with the deal.

“Based on my understand, every player who was actually protesting [aside from Jenkins] was not in agreement [with] this proposal,” Reid said.

At least one active kneeler, the New York Giants’ Olivier Vernon, said he was heartened by the agreement.

“Making progress, moving forward,” Vernon told the New York Post. “I don’t know all the logistics of everything right now, but it sounds likes it’s great movement to a good direction.”

On the other hand, Russell Okung of the Los Angeles Chargers, who has stood while raising a fist during the anthem, called the $89 million deal a “farce.”

“This goes beyond dollars and cents. It goes beyond allocating funds from other initiatives that are just as important,” Okung told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s going to take a real commitment of us, leveraging the platform of the players and empowering us to really talk about these issues, police engagement and brutality.”

The agreement, which divides funding between local and national initiatives, would allocate 25 percent of its national portion to the United Negro College Fund; 25 percent to the Dream Corps, and the other 50 percent to the Players Coalition, according to ESPN.

The coalition, which has filed for nonprofit status, has hired the Hopewell Fund to oversee and advise the group.

The NFL has seen its ratings slump this season amid fan outrage over the take-a-knee protests, which began last year as a protest against the deaths of black men at the hands of police.

Reid, a friend of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who led the take-a-knee protests last season, said that when it comes to oppression of minorities, “the end isn’t in sight in this country”.

“So, for me, protesting is the only way I feel comfortable with saying I’m doing the right thing,” Reid said.

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