Colin Kaepernick settles NFL collusion grievance
Colin Kaepernick | Logan Bowles/AP

Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid reached a settlement in their collusion grievance with the NFL.

The league and Kaepernick’s attorneys released a statement Friday afternoon saying the grievance had been resolved confidentially. As part of the confidentiality, all parties signed a non-disclosure agreement not to discuss the terms or any details of the settlement.

“For the past several months, counsel for Mr. Kaepernick and Mr. Reid have engaged in an ongoing dialogue with representatives of the NFL. 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,” read the statement.

The settlement was reached as the final arbitration hearing was set to begin this month before arbitrator Stephen Burbank.

The NFL Players Association also released a statement supporting the settlement between the league and players:

“Today, we were informed by the NFL of the settlement of the Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid collusion cases,” the NFLPA said. “We are not privy to the details of the settlement but support the decision by the players and their counsel. We continuously supported Colin and Eric from the start of their protests, participated with their lawyers throughout their legal proceedings and were prepared to participate in the upcoming trial in pursuit of both truth and justice for what we believe the NFL and its clubs did to them. We are glad that Eric has earned a job and a new contract (Carolina Panthers), and we continue to hope that Colin gets his opportunity as well.”

The NFLPA was not a party to the collusion grievance filed by Kaepernick and Reid.

Sources close to the matter say Kaepernick withdrew his collusion grievance against the league after reaching an acceptable financial settlement.

Kaepernick’s grievance, filed last year, argues the owners violated the NFL-NFLPA collective bargaining agreement by conspiring to keep him off teams—blacklisted—for his on-field protest during the national anthem.

The CBA strictly prohibits the league and teams from colluding on decisions about whether a player should be signed.

Article 17 of the NFL CBA: “No club, its employees or agents shall enter into any agreement or implied, with the NFL or any other club, its employees or agents to restrict or limit individual club decision-making… In order to prove collusion, Kaepernick will need to show a pattern of communication between at least two NFL teams and the league, and that the communication led to his current unemployment. Collusion claims like this hinge on documentary evidence, so Kaepernick will have to produce documents, emails, text messages, or recordings, showing an explicit or implicit agreement among teams to keep him out of the NFL.” 

And while we may never know the exact reasons why the NFL chose to settle, we can point to a few possible ones.

The league having its request for a summary judgment of dismissal denied by the arbitrator, points to there being enough merit in Kaepernick’s collusion argument, which could have resulted in the league losing the case—creating a PR nightmare. And, it would make public some, if not all, of the team owners depositions taken by Kaepernick’s team in the arbitrators written ruling. Statements which would further show bias, racism, and racial insensitivity by team officials.

Such disclosures would also further destroy the NFL’s current labor relations with the players and NFL Players Association, which could embolden the union in its upcoming contract fight in 2021.  

It’s difficult to say whether Kaepernick will ever again take the field as an NFL quarterback. With such a quiet end to the NFL collusion saga, teams may see signing Kaepernick as less of a risk. Eric Reid’s new three-year deal with the Carolina Panthers shows it’s a very real possibility.

But only time will tell.


Al Neal
Al Neal

Award winning journalist Al Neal is PW associate editor for labor and politics. He is also the chief photographer for People's World. He is a member of the Chicago News Guild, Society of Professional Journalists, Professional Photographers of America, National Sports Media Association, and The Ernest Brooks Foundation.