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Ron Rivera doubles down on defending Eric Reid’s anthem protest

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera has doubled down on his defense of Eric Reid’s decision to continue his national anthem protests, arguing on Wednesday that the team’s new player is simply exercising his rights to do so.

“I believe in the First Amendment and that’s all he did,” Rivera said on a conference call ahead of Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins, via The Washington Post. “He exercised his First Amendment.

“… As far as I’m concerned he’s an American citizen that’s entitled to exercise his rights.”

Rivera made similar comments following last Sunday’s 33-31 victory over the New York Giants.

Reid had three tackles in his debut with the Panthers, and Rivera praised the safety for how he’s “assimilated very nicely” into the locker room.

“He’s been great,” Rivera said of Reid. “He’s fit in exactly the way we’ve hoped for. Again, at the end of the day, when we made this decision we made it about football and football only.”

Reid is considered one of the better safeties in the NFL after playing five seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. Despite some interest from a handful of teams in free agency, Reid remained unemployed until the Panthers signed him to a one-year deal in late September.

Reid joined then-teammate Colin Kaepernick in launching the anthem protest movement during the 2016 season. The 26-year-old safety was praised by Kaepernick for continuing the protest in his first game back in the league.

Like Kaepernick, Reid has filed a collusion grievance against the NFL. Reid noted upon signing with the Panthers that it was “bittersweet” that he was back in the league yet Kaepernick remains a free agent.