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San Francisco 49ers cheerleader kneels during national anthem

‘Thursday Night Football’ kicked off with protest

11:32 AMA cheerleader for the San Francisco 49ers appeared to kneel during the playing of the national anthem ahead of the team’s home game against the Oakland Raiders on Thursday night.

Minutes before the 8:20 p.m. Eastern time kickoff, pictures began to surface online of the woman, who has yet to be identified, kneeling in the end zone with her hands and pompoms on her waist alongside other 49ers cheerleaders who were all standing.

The act of kneeling or sitting during the national anthem was started by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016. Kaepernick, who has been out of the league since the end of that season, refused to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” in protest of police violence and the oppression of “black people and people of color.” Scores of NFL players and other athletes have since joined Kaepernick in kneeling for the anthem, including former teammate Eric Reid, women’s soccer player Megan Rapinoe and various youth, high school and collegiate teams.

While athletes have gained the most attention for the protests, and the 49ers cheerleader was the first cheerleader in the NFL to participate, cheerleaders at all levels across the country have been kneeling during the national anthem.

In September 2016, a month after Kaepernick first sat, the entire Howard University cheerleading squad took a knee during the national anthem ahead of a game against Hampton. (The women did stand for the playing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” otherwise known as the black national anthem.) Since then, members of squads at Kennesaw State University, Georgia Tech and the University of Pennsylvania have also joined in on the protests.

Former NFL cheerleaders told Elle magazine in 2017 that their former counterparts hadn’t participated at that point because cheerleaders “are a little fish in a big pond” and that “there is a huge intimidation factor that these women experience.”

Since Kaepernick began the protest, he’s raised more than $1 million to donate to various social activism organizations and received various prestigious awards for his efforts. In October 2017, he filed a grievance against NFL owners, accusing the league and its owners of colluding to keep him out of the league because of his protests.