Two NFL players who have protested during the national anthem and seemed to be in each other’s corners nearly came to blows Sunday before their game against each other.
Carolina Panthers defensive back Eric Reid, a former teammate of Colin Kaepernick, confronted Philadelphia Eagles player Malcolm Jenkins on the field near the Eagles’ logo before their game. The exchange got heated and both players had to be separated.
The bad blood between the two stems from Reid splitting from Jenkins’ The Players Coalition after the organization sought to have the protests during the national anthem stopped if the NFL made donations to causes the group supports. Jenkins’ group and the NFL agreed to a deal in which the league would donate about $90 million to organizations supported by the players
Reid also wasn’t happy Kaepernick was excluded from meetings on the issue.
“We believe a lot of players should have stepped up for Colin,” Reid, 26, said after the game. “I believe Malcolm capitalized on the situation. He co-opted the movement that was started by Colin to get his organization funded. It’s cowardly. He sold us out.”
Jenkins, 30, didn’t say much about Reid’s comments.
“I’m not going to get up here and say anything negative about that man,” he told reporters.
Kaepernick also tweeted his support for Reid.
Carolina ended up coming away with the victory, 21-17.
The national anthem controversy started in 2016 when Kaepernick began to kneel during “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest what he believed were racial injustices being committed in the U.S.
Jenkins, along with several other NFL players, helped create The Players Coalition last season to help support social justice causes.
However, the group fractured in November 2017 with Reid and other players focusing more on helping get Kaepernick back in the NFL, according to The Undefeated. The Players Coalition was nearing a deal with the league that would dedicate millions to community-oriented programs. Other players in Jenkins’ group wanted to focus more on the big picture, The Undefeated reported.
While Kaepernick has remained unsigned and filed a grievance against the NFL claiming owners blackballed him from the league, the free-agent quarterback has donated more than $1 million to causes battling social injustice. He also signed a contentious deal with Nike to head its new ad campaign.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.