Eric Reid

NFL rumors: Colin Kaepernick sways Nike to pull Betsy Ross flag shoe

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AP

NFL rumors: Colin Kaepernick sways Nike to pull Betsy Ross flag shoe

Nike reportedly pulled a limited-release shoe bearing a colonial American flag on the heel after hearing out the concerns of Colin Kaepernick.

The former 49ers quarterback objected to the inclusion of "a symbol that he and others consider offensive" on a limited-edition pair of the Nike Air Max 1, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing people familiar with the matter. Kaepernick, a Nike athlete, reportedly took issue with the prominent placement of the Betsy Ross flag -- which features 13 white stars in a circle to represent the 13 colonies.

Nike recently pulled the shoes from their "own apps and websites," according to The Journal, and asked for retailers to return the shoes. Kaepernick first "reached out to company officials saying that he and others felt the Betsy Ross flag is an offensive symbol because of its connection to an era of slavery," according to The Journal. 

About two months before the 2016 presidential election, students from a predominantly white high school in Grand Rapids, Mich., waved the Betsy Ross flag and a flag supporting Donald Trump's presidential campaign at a football game their school played against a predominantly black one. At the time, the Grand Rapids NAACP issued a statement saying the Betsy Ross flag had been appropriated by "the so-called ‘Patriot Movement’ and other militia groups who are responding to America’s increasing diversity with opposition and racial supremacy.”

In a statement to The Journal, a Nike spokeswoman said “Nike has chosen not to release the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July as it featured the old version of the American flag."

In 2016, Kaepernick sat then kneeled during the playing of the national anthem before NFL games to protest police brutality and racial inequality in the United States. He became a free agent after opting out of his contract with the 49ers when the team told him after the season they would cut him if he didn't, and he remains an unsigned free agent.

Kaepernick and former 49ers teammate Eric Reid, who was the first NFL player to kneel alongside the QB, settled collusion grievances with the NFL earlier this year.

Nike continued to endorse Kaepernick throughout that time. This fall, Nike made Kaepernick the public face of its 30th anniversary "Just Do It" ad campaign. In February, the company released a black-and-white football jersey featuring Kaepernick's No. 7 and his last name on the back.

NFL rumors: Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid get less than $10M in settlement

NFL rumors: Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid get less than $10M in settlement

Former 49ers Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, who protested racial and social injustice by taking a knee during the national anthem while playing for the team, will receive less than $10 million to settle grievances with the NFL, Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday

Kaepernick and Reid resolved their pending grievances against the NFL on Feb. 15. The Wall Street Journal couldn't determine how the payment will be divided between the players and how much they will actually receive after legal fees. 

When the two resolved their grievances, the initial thought was possibly tens of millions of dollars were secured by the players, especially Kaepernick. The report indicates otherwise. 

Kaepernick, 31, has remained out of the NFL since the end of the 2016 season. He began protesting during the preseason of that year. He spent six seasons with San Francisco and led the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII. 

Reid, 27, joined Kaepernick in the protest during the 2016 season. He continued to do so in 2017 with the 49ers and last season as a member of the Panthers. 

[RELATED: NFL compensating Colin Kaepernick for not playing football]

The safety signed a three-year contract extension worth more than $21 million with the Panthers in February.

Why Colin Kaepernick's NFL settlement doesn't mean he'll rejoin league

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Why Colin Kaepernick's NFL settlement doesn't mean he'll rejoin league

Just a few short years ago, the NFL was more than willing to go the legal distance with a recognizable quarterback.

New England Patriots star Tom Brady's appeal of a four-game suspension made its way up the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, or one stop shy of the U.S. Supreme Court, for those of you who fell asleep during civics class in high school. Brady was suspended for allegedly deflating footballs, and the league fought him tooth and nail one stop shy of the nation's highest court.

It's telling that the NFL didn't do the same to former 49ers signal-caller Colin Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid.

The former San Francisco teammates were the first two NFL players to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality, and they settled their collusion grievances with the league Friday. An NFL team has not signed Kaepernick since he opted out of his contract with the 49ers following the 2016 season, and Reid did not sign with the Panthers until October. 

NFL officials speculated to Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman that Kaepernick's settlement ranged from $60 million to $80 million. The settlement avoided the hearing the parties were scheduled for later this month.

Considering Brady's legal challenge only ended after he decided not to continue an appeals process nearly 18 months after his initial suspension, that's quite the turnaround. 

Although Kaepernick would have had to clear a high legal bar to prove collusion, NFL might have settled in order to save its own skin. In August, a mediator first ruled that Kaepernick had raised enough evidence to move forward in his claim. 

The San Francisco Chronicle's Scott Ostler reported Friday that he previously heard from sources some of that evidence was "very embarassing" to the league that would have been made public if the case went to trial, while Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio noted that "the disclosure of a likely treasure trove of" various documents "could have been devastating to the NFL."

We might never know what that evidence could have looked like, or if the NFL truly colluded to keep Kaepernick out of the league. Both sides agreed to confidentiality, after all. 

But the existence of that agreement discloses plenty on its own, and begs another question: What does it all mean for Kaepernick's future on the field? 

[RELATED: Colorado sports store closes after Nike, Kaepernick boycott]

Unlike Brady, Kaepernick still might not play again. He reportedly has continued to work out and prepare should the opportunity arise, but some teams implied or straight-up said it had been too long since he played back in 2017. What will they say now that his suit is settled, two full seasons after he last played?

They'll probably say the same things, paraphrase NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's thoughts and offer up the usual excuses about Kaepernick "not fitting their system." There also is the possibility, as Florio noted, that Kaepernick's settlement "includes a provision that he won’t seek, and won’t be offered, NFL employment."

With the NFL rumor mill ramping up in advance of the start of the league year, we could know whether or not that's the case as soon as next month. Nick Foles, Teddy Bridgewater, Ryan Tannehill and Tyrod Taylor headline a largely uninspiring crop of potential free-agent QBs, and Kaepernick is (at worst) a comparable passer to all four.

Of course, that didn't stop all 32 teams from choosing not to sign him before. With his legal challenge officially settled, what's stopping them now?