Until late last fall, Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid were close partners in a group formed in 2016 to support quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his on-field protest of racial oppression and police brutality. But that was before the Players Coalition split with Kaepernick and Reid – and before last Sunday, when Reid went after Norman's ally and the coalition's leader, Philadelphia's Malcolm Jenkins, on the field before a game.
After the game, Reid called Jenkins "a sellout." On Thursday, Norman criticized Reid in a nine-minute rant at the Redskins' practice facility.
"To hear Eric come out and do what he did, it's almost like, wow, it's a slap in the face because Malcolm has been nothing but stand up in the Players Coalition … and everyone knows that," Norman said.
What seemed to anger Norman most is that Reid took a months-old grievance about the group's division onto the field. The coalition, formed in the days after Kaepernick first said he would not stand for the national anthem, splintered in November when the NFL offered to donate $90 million as part of a social-justice partnership. According to a February story in the Undefeated, Reid and Kaepernick refused to attend a coalition meeting with the owners Nov. 7 to discuss the league's offer.
"He's not only taking a shot at [Jenkins]; he's taking a shot at everyone in the Players Coalition," Norman said. "I'm a part of that, a lot of guys are a part of that, and I feel his direction was as if, because he was a part of it at one point in time, he went to the direction of, 'OK, if Kaepernick is not the leader, then this is all for naught.' And our take was, 'I'm sorry, but if guys voted for [Kaepernick] to be that, then OK, so be it,' but it wasn't that."
Norman suggested that Reid was less interested in the social justice aspect of the movement and wanted only to side with Kaepernick, who has said little publicly about his protest outside of a few early news conferences, a Nike ad campaign and a handful of appearances at award presentations.
"At the end of the day, I don't really care about all that outside stuff," Norman said. "That's all for the shows and the glamour and the Instagram. … No, this is all realistic stuff here."
"Whatever, do your own thing, be merry with each other, that's cool, be merry, run around the merry-go-round," Norman continued. "We're not doing that around here; that's some other stuff. Like I said, you can't do that and expect to get away with it. I'm trying to turn the situation around from what people may think it is [to] when you really know truly what it is. If you want the answers, it's all there. Facts. Just facts. It's all I spit: facts."
Reid, who was a teammate of Kaepernick's in San Francisco, has been one of the quarterback's strongest supporters in the league and continues to kneel during the anthem, even after other coalition members, such as Jenkins and Norman, have ended their on-field protests. Reid did not get any offers when he became a free agent after last season, and the NFL Players Association filed a grievance against the Cincinnati Bengals, alleging teams colluded against him. An arbiter ruled against Reid and the union this week.
"If you want to be a parakeet: 'What you say, Kap? What you say?' " Norman said, taking a swipe at Reid. "You can say that all you want, but the thing is, you can't tell another man what they doing if they not going to come in here and be a man about themselves and tell us the direction of what you want to do. We're not going to get behind that. Ain't nobody backing that. And if it was, they would have been a part of it. And that's all that it's about, man."
Many around the league have criticized Kaepernick for not outlining where he wants to take his protest. Norman seemed to echo that; his response to Reid seemed to become a criticism of Kaepernick as well.
"If you don't have a direction of where you're going with the whole thing, how are we going to follow you?" Norman said. "I can't follow you into the abyss. I mean, you got to have a plan, you got to have something in motion, you got to have something where the guys behind you are backing that."
Norman said he tried to call Reid twice this week before speaking out Thursday, but Reid did not answer.
"I don't respect that," he said. "It is what it is, man. I mean, we'll see each other, I'm pretty sure, again. We'll talk and try to figure out what middle ground we can come up with."