NEW YORK -- Serena Williams said every athlete "should be completely grateful and honored" for the protests started by former NFL players Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid.
Kaepernick and Reid, two former San Francisco 49ers now out of the league, were each given huge ovations when they were introduced and shown on the big screen during the match between Serena and Venus Williams at the US Open on Friday night. Serena Williams said she was focused on the match and did not notice the pair in the stands. Reid raised his fist and Kaepernick smiled for the fans.
Kaepernick tweeted a photo of his young niece with Serena and wrote, "Lani lost it when Serena surprised her after the match!!! Thank you so much Serena !!!"
I know today will motivate Lani to be great! She couldn't contain her excitement watching her favorite players @serenawilliams and @Venuseswilliams. Thanks Serena for surprising her after the match! pic.twitter.com/0gwoOlaoVI— Eric Reid (@E_Reid35) September 1, 2018
Serena said she was grateful for the stand they took that has seen both players take on the NFL. An arbitrator is sending Kaepernick's grievance with the NFL to trial, denying the league's request to throw out the quarterback's claims that owners conspired to keep him out of the league because of his protests of social injustice. A similar grievance is still pending by unsigned safety Eric Reid, who played with Kaepernick in San Francisco and joined in the protests.
Kaepernick began a wave of protests by NFL players two seasons ago, kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality. The protests have grown into one of the most polarizing issues in sports, with President Donald Trump loudly urging the league to suspend or fire players who demonstrate during the anthem.
"I think every athlete, every human and definitely every African-American should be completely grateful and honored how Colin and Eric are doing so much more for the greater good, so to say," Serena said. "They really use their platform in ways that is really unfathomable. I feel like they obviously have great respect from a lot of their peers, especially other athletes, people that really are looking for social change."
Serena equaled her most lopsided victory ever in 30 professional meetings with sister Venus, beating her 6-1, 6-2 in the third round.