From the start, those opposed to NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest racism have pegged the protesters as “unpatriotic” or “disrespectful to the armed forces”.
Panthers safety Eric Reid’s family members beg to differ. Unknown to many, military ties run deep in Reid’s family – 10 immediate family members have served in the armed forces. His mother, Sharon Guillory-Reid served six years in the Louisiana Army National Guard. She worked her way up to sergeant before becoming pregnant with Eric in 1991. In addition to Guillory-Reid, Eric’s grandfather served in Japan in the 1950s; a great uncle lost his life in the Korean War; an uncle served in Iraq and Kuwait during his 30 plus years of service; and a cousin recently returned from Afghanistan.
Guillory-Reid says that at no point did any family member take offense to Eric’s choice to kneel as a form of protest of systemic oppression.
“I just always tell him that he has my full support, that I love him, I’m supporting him. I’m behind him and I trust and I know that he’s going to handle it in the way that he sees fit. All that he needs to know and to feel is that he has the support of his family.
“Not a single person in my family stated that (Reid’s kneeling) was anti-military. Every single person in my family sent me texts, Facebook messages about how proud they were and how they supported him.
“All of them were like, ‘You can use my name. If anybody wants to talk to me, I’m active duty, I’m retired. Tell them to give me a call. We fully support him.’”
Colin Kaepernick, Reid’s former teammate in San Francisco started his protest by simply sitting on a bench during the anthem. After he and Reid met with retired Green Beret and former NFL player Nate Boyer, they decided that kneeling would be a better compromise. Ironically, the kneeling is what set off a firestorm of debate; Guillory-Reid says that those offended by the kneeling are “not being open-minded”. In fact, kneeling is a sign of respect; when a soldier goes down on the battlefield, it’s the first thing that happens.
Reid has been vocal about the fact that he is not protesting the flag or the military. His mother echoes those sentiments stating some have twisted the meaning behind the protests for their own personal agenda to merely take the focus off where it is supposed to be: oppression. Speaking with media earlier in the week, Reid was insistent that he has the full support of his military family members because as he put it” “When they get home, they’re still black in America.”
Reid’s resiliency and strength to speak him mind was embedded in him early, courtesy of his father, Eric Sr., an ordained minister, and his mother who played tight end and defensive end in the Women’s American Football League. Just a few minutes into dialogue with Reid, Jr. will let you know that he is not only passionate about his cause; he is knowledgeable as well. While the effect of Reid Jr.’s activism may not be immediately quantifiable, Guillory-Reid believes it’s just a matter of time.
“Right now, we may not see the incremental steps, but 10, 20 years down the line, you will see it.
“You’ve got to make a person believe that they can make a change. Already with the new ownership and Eric being there, people in Charlotte are seeing – they’re seeing and they’re knowing that they can make a difference. One person can really make a difference.”
Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will serve as this year’s Salute to Service game. While everyone will acknowledge those that have fought for the United States; Eric Reid will continue to fight to overcome the systemic oppression that has become as much a part of American culture as the national anthem and apple pie.Tags: Carolina Panthers, Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid, Salute to Service