First NFL Cheerleader Kneels During National Anthem

November 2, 2018 Updated: November 2, 2018

A San Francisco 49ers cheerleader became the first to become involved in the national anthem protests, taking a knee during the anthem on Nov. 1.

Pictures from the broadcast and field from the Thursday night game showed the unidentified cheerleader kneeling while the “Star-Spangled Banner” was performed.

While the cheerleader was kneeling, several things could be seen around the stadium: people with hands placed over their hearts on a huge screen; military members holding a giant flag in the center of the field; and military members saluting as they stood behind the cheerleaders.

No other cheerleader has participated in the protests, which former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick started when he played for the 49ers in 2016.

Kaepernick claimed that kneeling during the national anthem was a way to protest, stating: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

Kaepernick no longer plays in the league, but some players have continued kneeling despite requests by owners to stop. A rule instituted during the summer that would have allowed fines of players who knelt during the anthem was put on hold after outcry from the player’s union.

The protests have been linked to declining viewership for the league.

It’s unclear if the 49ers will take any action against the cheerleader. The 49ers declined to comment when reached by NBC.

‘Need to Learn’

While the 49ers’ cheerleader was the first professional one to take part, five members of the Kennesaw State squad knelt during the anthem in September 2017. Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren told the Marietta Daily Journal that he was shocked.

“Cobb County has lost sons and daughters at home and on foreign lands while protecting America. And to witness these ill-informed students acting this way clearly tells me KSU needs to get busy educating these students on more than just passing their classes,” Warren said. “They need to learn all that the flag truly represents.”

Another dancer at Georgia State University took a knee around the same time.

A number of former professional cheerleaders told Elle magazine last year that they would not have knelt during the anthem.

“If I was still a cheerleader, I wouldn’t kneel down, it’s not my job,” one told the magazine.

“I would be frustrated about what’s going on in the country, but I would put my thoughts and opinions to the side and keep on moving.”


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