Eric Reid and Malcolm Jenkins are two of the NFL’s most prominent voices in regards to player protests, but they have disagreed about how the movement should proceed. The dispute boiled over on Sunday when Reid’s Carolina Panthers played Jenkins and the Eagles in Philadelphia. Reid ran onto the field and confronted Jenkins during the pregame coin toss, and the Panthers safety had to be restrained by his teammates. After the game, Reid told reporters that Jenkins was a “sellout.”
Reid and Jenkins’ contentious relationship revolves around the Players Coalition, an organization co-founded by Jenkins that raises awareness for social causes like criminal justice reform. Reid has been displeased with the Coalition and its relationship with the NFL, and he reiterated those thoughts to reporters on Sunday.
Jenkins was diplomatic when addressing the situation after the game. “I would never get up here and say anything bad about somebody who I know whose intentions were real about helping the community,” he said.
Starting in 2016, Reid was the first player to kneel alongside Colin Kaepernick during pregame performances of the national anthem, and he had been out of the league this season until the Panthers signed him last month. Reid was a member of the Players Coalition, but he dropped out along with Miami Dolphins’ safety Michael Thomas last year. “We don’t believe the coalition’s beliefs are in our best interests as a whole,” the two players announced in a statement at the time.
According to reports, the split was due to the Player Coalition’s negotiations with NFL leadership. The NFL had agreed to give $100 million to Coalition-endorsed causes, though Reid complained that the league was using existing funds and was not providing any new money for the cause. Reid was also concerned that the NFL was trying to co-opt and buy the players’ social justice movement while pushing Kaepernick aside.
Last November, Jeremy Stahl reported in Slate that Reid had been asked to stop protesting “if the league made donations to charity.” This alleged quid pro quo irked Reid, as did the structure and function of the Coalition itself. “[I] have voiced these concerns numerous times to Malcolm [Jenkins] concerning the structure of the organization and how we want to be involved more with the NFL in those communications,” Reid told ESPN in 2017. “It has not transpired.”