CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers will salute military members during Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay at Bank of America Stadium.
At the same time, many fans are finding out about Panthers safety Eric Reid's military ties and why he’s still determined to kneel during the playing of the national anthem.
Reid took a knee along the sidelines prior to the game.
Reid was one of the first players in the NFL to kneel for the national anthem in 2016, along with quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Last month, he was the first Panthers player to take a knee against what he calls “systemic oppression.”
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Reid says he is proud to be an American because brave men and women in our military fought and died so this country could be fair and free.
He also said he loves his country, and because of that, he is protesting the social injustices that he says black families are struggling against.
While some admire Reid’s stance, others call him a villain, so the Panthers are now giving fans a new look at the military ties in Reid’s family.
Recently, Reid’s mother, Sharon Guillory-Reid, shared stories from her six years in the armed forces.
She said some of her own family members have died while fighting for our nation.
Guillory-Reid said she supports her son’s protests and said they have never been about the military, but instead have always been about fair treatment.
“This is not about the military,” Guillory-Reid said. “This is not about disrespect. It’s about bringing awareness to social injustices in this country.”
Reid's mother said she is proud he isn't sticking to sports or putting his career first. She said he is genuinely trying to find a way to spark change.
"It was great for her to say that because a lot of our attention is on the wrong thing about them kneeling and not what's actually going on in America,” said C.J. Bailey, who supports Reid.
Panthers players are wearing initials of fallen heroes on their helmets during Sunday’s game.
During practice on Saturday, the players also spent time with families of soldiers who gave their lives.
“I don’t oppose anyone who says they are kneeling for the injustices that we want to recognize,” supporter Kim Harris said.
Several families told Channel 9 they still disagree with the anthem protests.
“I disagree with the reasons behind it, but I understand and fight for the right to express his beliefs,” said Dari Mullins, who disagrees with Reid.
“He’s still wrong. I just think there needs to be some respect shown,” added Rendee Hunt.
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