Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who led kneeling protests during NFL games, and ex-teammate Eric Reid will receive less than $10 million (8.8m euros, £7.6m) after settling collusion lawsuits against the league, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
Kaepernick's 2016 kneeling protest of racial inequality and social injustice during US national anthems became a target for complaints by US President Donald Trump, who asked NFL club owners to fire players who kneeled before games.
Kaepernick, like former San Francisco 49ers safety Reid, sued the league claiming team owners had colluded to keep him out of the NFL since he opted out of his contract in March 2017.
A confidential settlement deal between the NFL and the players was announced last month, but the Journal, citing unnamed sources briefed on terms of the settlement, said the amount they will receive to end the legal fight was less than $10 million.
What had been seen as a victory for the players might instead have been a bargain for the NFL given the money the pair could have won had they prevailed in court.
The story said it was uncertain how much each would be paid and how much they would have after legal fees.
But under NFL contract terms with its players union, 31-year-old Kaepernick could have made up to three times what an arbitrator said he lost as a result of collusion.
With a possible annual salary around $15 million for two lost seasons, Kaepernick could have been in line for $90 million while the NFL would have endured a costly litigation in public.
Kaepernick and Reid claimed club owners kept them out of the league as a result of the kneeling protest, costing them prime earning years at the peak of their careers. Kaepernick has missed the past two seasons. Reid was signed by Carolina midway into last season.
Trump dubbed any player who kneeled a "son of a bitch" in September 2017, saying such players were insulting the nation and its soldiers, and more than 200 players sat or kneeled in the weeks that followed at the height of the protest.
The NFL, the world's richest sports league, issued a new policy last May requiring players to stand or stay in the locker room, but it was pulled back and in July a joint NFL-union statement said no rules regarding the anthem would be imposed.
Nike signed an endorsement deal with Kaepernick last September.