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Why does Eric Reid consider Malcolm Jenkins a sellout?

Inside the beef between the NFL safeties and what it means going forward

After initiating a pregame altercation with Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins on Sunday, Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid called Jenkins a “sellout” while speaking with reporters postgame.

Reid’s resentment of Jenkins stems from their opposing positions in the new social justice movement in sports led by NFL players. Jenkins, co-founder of the Players Coalition, performed a key role in brokering an unprecedented $89 million social justice partnership with the NFL. For his part, Reid believes the coalition has both betrayed the principles of the movement and denied former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was the first player in the league to demonstrate during the national anthem to shine a light on systemic racism and police brutality, his rightful place at the head of the table.

How did Reid and Jenkins, onetime allies, drift so far apart? And what could their differences potentially mean for the ongoing movement? Here’s a simple FAQ to help explain where we stand and where we might be going.

What is the Players Coalition?

The main group that negotiated with NFL owners on behalf of players who protested during the national anthem to bring attention to racial injustice. The group was co-founded by Jenkins and former NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

Strong safety Eric Reid (right) of the Carolina Panthers gets in the face of strong safety Malcolm Jenkins (left) of the Philadelphia Eagles before the start of the first quarter.

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Why does Reid consider Jenkins a sellout?

Reid strongly disagrees with Jenkins on two fronts: his decision to accept money from the NFL without placing more conditions on owners, and his choice to stop demonstrating during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Although the NFL did not require players to show their respect for the United States flag in exchange for funding programs considered important to communities of color, there was no implicit quid pro quo, owners hoped players would no longer believe it was necessary to demonstrate. Reid was among several players who broke away from the coalition in protest of the leadership of Jenkins and Boldin.

Why did Jenkins stop demonstrating?

Some activist-players, including Jenkins, grew weary of the controversy stirred by the long-running demonstrations. Polls now show that many within the public believe kneeling is inappropriate. Opponents of the movement have labeled players as being anti-police and anti-military.

It’s important to note that even Reid, who has repeatedly blasted Jenkins publicly, questioned the effectiveness of continuing to demonstrate last season. The league’s money didn’t change Jenkins’ position, Jenkins insists. It was just the right time for change, he said. “At this point,” Jenkins said recently, “it’s important for us as a movement to continue to adapt to the context of the situation.”

Exactly how does Kaepernick fit in?

Reid was the first player to kneel alongside Kaepernick during the 2016 season while they were San Francisco 49ers teammates. He and Kaepernick are close friends and each have collusion grievances against the league, alleging owners conspired to ruin their careers because of their activism. Essentially, Reid believes Jenkins and Boldin have stolen the movement that Kaepernick started with Reid’s initial support. In Reid’s view, Jenkins and Boldin conspired to push aside Kaepernick, who should have been the one to determine whether the coalition partnered with the league in anything. Moreover, Reid demanded that the coalition, in its negotiation with owners, require that Kaepernick be signed by an NFL team before any deal would be struck. Jenkins and Boldin did not comply. Reid’s frustration with the coalition, and vice versa, was revealed through text messages obtained by ESPN.

Will Reid’s beef with Jenkins adversely impact the movement?

It shouldn’t. The coalition is doing its thing, especially focusing on criminal justice reform. Reid has remained closely aligned with Kaepernick, who has become much bigger while railing against injustice in exile than he ever was during his days as a successful passer. Other players who have split with the coalition, including Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills, are working individually to improve communities.

What is Jenkins’ attitude toward Reid?

Jenkins continues to take the high road, praising Reid for the work he does on behalf of others.

Will Reid face disciplinary action from the league?

Possibly. Although he wasn’t flagged before or during Sunday’s game, the NFL could still fine him for unsportsmanlike conduct. The penalty for a first offense is $13,369. A second offense increases to $26,739.

Jason Reid is the senior NFL writer at Andscape. He enjoys watching sports, especially any games involving his son and daughter.