A cheerleader for the San Francisco 49ers appeared to kneel during the national anthem before a game on Thursday against the Oakland Raiders.
The woman has not been identified. However, multiple spectators at the game photographed the apparent protest. If the woman was in fact kneeling in protest, she would mark the first NFL cheerleader to do so during a game.
Cheerleaders have not participated in the protests thus far due at least in part to the fact that they are far more “replaceable” than the players. Nevertheless, some cheerleaders at the college level have chosen to take the risk and at least six have taken a knee in the last two years.
Significantly, this form of protest began with Colin Kaepernick while he was playing for the 49ers in 2016. Kaepernick employed this gesture to protest racial injustice and police brutality and it has since been replicated by other players across the NFL.
Many were opposed to the protest, leading NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to introduce a policy requiring players to stand during the anthem earlier this year. Under the policy, players would have the option to remain in the locker room during the pregame performance rather than kneeling. Those who did not comply would be fined. Following a challenge from the NFL Players Association, the new policy was put on hold.