A cheerleader for the San Francisco 49ers’ has knelt during the US national anthem, in an apparent mirror of the protest movement begun by the quarterback Colin Kaepernick to raise awareness about racism and police brutality.
The woman appeared to take a knee before the team’s game against the Oakland Raiders on Thursday, according to a widely circulated photo posted on Twitter and reports.
The cheerleader, who has not yet been identified, may be the first National Football League (NFL) cheerleader to take a knee during the anthem, multiple media outlets said.
“One of the Niners cheerleaders is taking a knee,” tweeted @GatorLenny at 8.18 PST from Levi’s Stadium.
News reporter Damian Trujillo posted a closeup.
Kneeling during the national anthem was started in 2016 by the one-time 49ers’ quarterback Kaepernick. Other athletes joined in Kaepernick’s kneeling protest, including his then team-mate Eric Reid. Kaepernick left the 49ers after 2016.
He still has not been signed to another team. In a grievance filing, he has alleged that NFL owners have colluded against him.
Donald Trump has criticised players who knelt, even calling upon team owners to fire them. A handful of NFL team owners have voiced opposition to these kneeling protests.
Jed York, CEO of the 49ers, has repeatedly come out in support of players who kneel. He was the sole NFL team owner “to abstain from a vote by the owners that initially required players to stand for the anthem”, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Cheerleaders for college-level football teams have knelt during the national anthem. Five members of the Kennesaw (Georgia) State University’s cheer squad did so in September 2017. Four of the so-called “Kennesaw Five” were not asked back on the team, an area NBC affiliate reported.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, one of these cheerleaders filed a lawsuit claiming that the college, as well as local elected officials, violated her civil rights. The woman, Tommia Dean, alleged that officials plotted to keep them off the field after their protest.
Media representatives for the 49ers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.