On February 15, 2019, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and current Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a settlement with the NFL regarding their collusion claims against the NFL.
As we have previously reported, Kaepernick accused the NFL of colluding to keep him out of the league since he became a free agent in March 2017, arguing that the NFL refused to hire him because of his 2016 national anthem protests. Kaepernick has not been with an NFL team since severing his contract with the 49ers in March 2017. Reid, who played for the 49ers from 2013 to 2017, signed with the Panthers before the team’s fourth game of the 2018 season and received a three-year deal worth more than $22 million.
Regarding the settlement, attorney Mark Geragos and the NFL said in a joint statement, “[f]or the past several months, counsel for Mr. Kaepernick and Mr. Reid have engaged in an ongoing dialogue with representatives of the NFL. As a result of those discussions, the parties have decided to resolve the pending grievances. The resolution of this matter is subject to a confidentiality agreement so there will be no further comment by any party.”
It appears that both parties are satisfied with the settlement. On the one hand, the NFL is happy, at least for now, that the embarrassing Kaepernick saga has ended. On the other hand, Kaepernick is likely happy with the result considering the upcoming challenges. Kaepernick and Reid faced a difficult challenge of proving collusion as defined by CBA. To prove collusion, under the CBA, Kaepernick and Reid would have had to show that a “club, its employees[,] or agents” had “entered into an agreement” to restrict or limit whether to offer Kaepernick and Reid a contract. The CBA specifically makes clear that unemployment alone does not mean collusion occurred. Many have speculated that while Kaepernick was a talented athlete, his inaccuracy and poor in-game decisions, not politics, have since kept him out of the NFL. Thus, proving the NFL and its various teams colluded to keep him out of the league would likely be a high bar.
Lastly, the NFLPA said that while it did not know the details of the settlement, it supported the decision by Kaepernick and Reid. In a statement, the NFLA said, “[w]e continuously supported Colin and Eric from the start of their protests, participated with their lawyers throughout their legal proceedings[,] and were prepared to participate in the upcoming trial in pursuit of both truth and justice for what we believe the NFL and its clubs did to them.”