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Washington (AFP) – The NFL Players Association announced Monday it has filed a grievance on behalf of Eric Reid, who lodged a collusion lawsuit against the league over being unsigned for kneeling during the US national anthem.

Reid, a 26-year-old free agent safety who played from 2013 through last season with the San Francisco 49ers, was the first teammate to join former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in a kneeling protest over social injustice and racial inequality issues.

Kaepernick was unemployed during the 2017 NFL season after igniting the social protest among players that led US President Donald Trump to condemn the protests and urge owners fire players who kneeled during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Reid has gone unsigned after a five-year career in which he made 318 tackles, 10 interceptions and two forced fumbles.

The Cincinnati Bengals reportedly brought in Reid and ran through videos and a physical. But when asked about the kneeling protest, Reid would not rule out such a pre-game move and the Bengals never made a contract offer.

Together with Kaepernick, whose collusion case against the NFL is also ongoing, the union is concerned players are effectively being stripped of their rights to protest without losing their livelihood.

“Prior to the start of the current NFL off-season, our union directed the agents of free agent players who had participated in peaceful on-field demonstrations to collect, memorialize and report any relevant information about potential violations of the collective bargaining agreement by teams,” the union said in a statement.

The union noted there is no NFL rule banning players from demonstrating during the national anthem and the NFL has said they would respect the rights of players to demonstrate, such rules having priority over club rules.

“According to our information, a club appears to have based its decision not to sign a player based on the player’s statement that he would challenge the implementation of a club’s policy prohibiting demonstration, which is contrary to the league policy,” the union statement said.

“At least one club owner has asked pre-employment interview questions about a player’s intent to demonstrate. We believe these questions are improper, given league policy. Our union continues to monitor these developments.”

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