Former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick went from bench warmer to the face of a huge Nike campaign — and all he needed to do was disrespect the American flag.
But the pay days weren’t done for the controversial Kaepernick. With a public hearing looming and the threat of owners and league officials facing depositions, the NFL just paid a large settlement in a lawsuit brought by Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid.
The league, about to celebrate its 100th season, faced criticism from all sides thanks to the protest movement started by Kaepernick. Many fans said they wouldn’t watch if the league allowed players to protest during the national anthem, and television ratings plummeted after Kaepernick started taking a knee.
Kaepernick and his lawyer demanded he be paid anyway — and under threat of lawsuit, the NFL again seems to have caved.
The league and Kaepernick’s lawyer sent out statements Friday saying that “the parties have decided to resolve the pending grievances” and that a confidentiality agreement would prevent either side from commenting further.
It remains unclear if the NFL admitted wrongdoing or how much money Reid, Kaepernick or others may have received. Considering the lost salary both players claimed and legal costs, the settlement could have climbed into the tens of millions of dollars.
“For the past several months, counsel for Mr. Kaepernick and Mr. Reid have engaged in an ongoing dialogue with representatives of the NFL,” the league statement said. “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.”
Kaepernick’s lawyer Mark Geragos tweeted a similar statement .
The protests slowed down this season, but the controversy reignited every time there was a development in the case.
A hearing was scheduled for later this month.
Kaepernick and Reid filed collusion grievances against the league, saying they were blacklisted because of protests during the national anthem at games. Kaepernick has not played in the league since 2016, while Reid missed three games last season before signing with Carolina. Kaepernick contended the owners violated their collective bargaining agreement with players by conspiring to keep him off teams.
While the players seemed intent on pursuing the cases, the league might not have been eager for those deposed — including Commissioner Roger Goodell and several owners and league executives — to appear. Still, for the players to prove collusion is a mighty challenge because, according to the 2011 labor agreement between the union and league, a “club, its employees or agents” must have “entered into an agreement” to limit contract offers.
Kaepernick filed his grievance in August 2017. Arbitrator Stephen B. Burbank sent it to trial, denying the league’s request to throw out the former 49ers quarterback’s claims.
A wave of protests by NFL players began in 2016 after Kaepernick kneeled in protest during the national anthem, and said the American flag represented the oppression of black people and people of color. The protests grew into one of the most polarizing issues in sports, with President Donald Trump loudly urging the league to suspend or fire players who demonstrate during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
While he hasn’t been playing a kids game for millions of dollars, Kaepernick has become a well-paid advocate for social justice. On Thursday, a person with knowledge of the conversations told the AP that Kaepernick turned down a chance to join the fledgling Alliance of American Football, demanding $20 million or more from the upstart league that pays its players $225,000 over three seasons.
Safety Reid recently re-signed with the Panthers for three years and more than $22 million.
The Associated Press contributed to this article