True Sacrifice: Settlement Does Not Undermine Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid’s Mission

On February 15th, it was reported by several outlets that Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid reached a settlement with the NFL over a building collusion case stemming from Kaepernick protesting police brutality against minorities by kneeling during the national anthem. As with any major event, opinions flew in on all sides. Various notables offered their takes, citing that Kaepernick is a sellout for settling what is presumed to be a large amount of money. I want to break this idea down and get to the root of its existence and why it’s wrongly founded.

Let’s begin with this tweet from Dr. Boyce Watkins:

The term “selling out” refers to a person receiving compensation in exchange for compromising beliefs. The motivations behind selling out are greed and selfishness. The person was once believed to have high moral standing now is tainted in the eyes of people.

Lawsuits, by connotation, are settled with compensation. Criminal lawsuits carry personal penalty, but civil lawsuits are a matter of grievance and compensation. Either what was wrongfully taken is restored, compensation is given as replacement, or both. The last result is important here because not only is assumed monetary payment a result of settlement, Kaepernick could and should also receive an opportunity to sign with an NFL team. He and Reid were suing because of unfair treatment because of their stances on social justice, not for those social injustices alone. Kaepernick and Reid wanting to regain the right to make a living is something most with moral decency agree should happen. But once settlement received, people like Boyce Watkins believe that’s selling out.

This leads me to this tweet from current Philadelphia Eagles safety and social activist Malcolm Jenkins:

Jenkins is alluding to the fact that had Kaepernick and Reid gone to trial with their case, that would have resulted in the possible revelation of exactly who was prominent in colluding to keep Kaepernick out of the NFL. Because the settlement includes a confidentiality agreement, none of the parties involved will comment on the details of the case. The problem with Jenkins’ tweet, outside of the tones of jealousy and misguided emotion, is that he assumes that because we don’t know particular names in the collusion case, there is no proof of collusion. This is incorrect.

There is a consensus that Kaepernick was treated unfairly because of his stance against police brutality against minorities. As other quarterbacks, who were either older, unproven or without the same accomplishments as Kaepernick were signed, the case against the NFL grew to the point of obvious guilt.

Also, take into account that no company — especially one as big as the NFL — would settle if it truly believed there was no wrongdoing. Yes, companies throw money at problems to make them go away. But that’s just it: there has to be an admission of a problem. With the case settlement including a confidentiality agreement, the NFL would rather admit there was a problem this way than to have the case go to trial and reveal much more damaging information. Yes, it would be interesting to know names and details. But if it is obvious to everyone — even Jenkins — that Kaepernick should have an opportunity to be on an NFL roster, and there was some immoral business in place to keep that from happening, names should not sway us to further believe that.

So the major question behind all this is: why is an initial reaction to Kaepernick and Reid’s case a feeling of selling out? It doesn’t come from them, as Kaepernick hasn’t spoken publicly outside of accepting an award in two years and Reid only speaks on Malcolm Jenkins and the ridiculousness of the frequency of him being drug tested last season. If we haven’t heard from them or representatives of them changing their beliefs, then why do we assume that Kaepernick is a sellout for receiving what is owed to him?

There is this concept that our activists — those who give up their livelihoods or have them taken from them — must be made martyrs in order for their sacrifices to be justified. Either they must be assassinated or have their lives ruined to the point where they are sad stories and primetime news specials decades later, catering to our remorse and our own feigned feelings of helplessness towards them.

Even with Reid receiving a contract with the Carolina Panthers, he still continues his activism. (NY Post)

However, that feeling stems from this notion that those activists won’t and therefore shouldn’t see the benefits of their efforts. We know there is still a long way to go before this country is truly equal. But when it comes to social issues of a grander scale, we believe those involved can only receive the moral compensation of, “a better world.” That is something that grew from many factors, but I don’t want to berate people for believing that which they may not know they’ve been conditioned to believe. For example, we applaud the late Muhammad Ali for his stance against the Vietnam War, but overlook the fact that his boxing license was reinstated (with significant help from his rival Joe Frazier). We know he kept boxing, but we mourn him being stricken with Parkinson’s as everything being stripped from him. He sacrificed his well-being for his cause, the same way the likes Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were assassinated for their sacrifices to fight for civil rights.

There is no reason to wait solely on the moral righting of the world in order to appreciate who strove to do the best they can to make this world better. Those who give their time and lives to various causes should not be placed in our afterthoughts until days are used to recognize their services. Don’t just name stadiums and roads after them. Give them appreciation while they’re still actively with us, fighting for us.

We are living in a time of revolution. Kaepernick and Reid are heroes. They do not have to have their lives torn down to where the only success they end up having is moral success they may not see. Just because both of them have received compensation for their grievances does not make their grievances invalid. These two men sacrificed their livelihoods in order to use their platforms to bring awareness to the social injustices that are ravaging the United States. Because of that, their employer – former in Kap’s case as Reid was re-signed by Carolina – mistreated them and unfairly made it difficult, if not impossible to regain employment. They sued and received settlement, indirectly confirming there was unfair treatment. We should celebrate them receiving retribution for their grievances and honor the sacrifices they made; instead of quickly assuming that relinquished their dignity and beliefs.

Just because Kaepernick and Reid received compensation for the grievances does not invalidate their work as activists. (Sporting News)

Generations from now, when we speak of this period on history, it does not have to come with grief and sadness of what befell these men in a way that we discuss MLK and Brother Malcolm. Let us appreciate them now, even as they are compensated for their grievances. Thank you to Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid for tremendous mental fortitude and continued strength and selflessness as we continue to rid our country of bigotry and injustice.

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