Panthers sign S Eric Reid, who protested with Colin Kaepernick

The Carolina Panthers announced Thursday that they have signed safety Eric Reid, the second player to kneel during the national anthem after Colin Kaepernick, to a one-year contract.

Reid, 26, became a free agent this offseason after five years with the San Francisco 49ers. He was the first player to protest during the national anthem alongside Kaepernick in 2016 — demonstrations that they and others have described as a means of protesting police brutality and racial inequality.

Panthers general manager Marty Hurney told USA TODAY Sports' Jarrett Bell that the team never asked Reid whether he will continue to protest.

“This was a football decision, signing a player who can help us win football games," Hurney said.

In an earlier statement announcing the moves, Hurney said Reid would bring vital help in the secondary after the unit was struck by injury.

"Eric has been a starting safety in the NFL and has played at a high level throughout his career," Hurney said in a statement. "After we put (starting safety) Da’Norris Searcy on injured reserve, Ron (Rivera) and I discussed our options, and Eric was at the top of our list. He is a physical safety with good ball skills and play-making ability."

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