On Thursday night, a San Francisco 49ers cheerleader became the first NFL cheerleader to take a knee during the national anthem before a game when she performed the silent protest in the endzone before a national TV audience. Images of the cheerleader swiftly went viral on social media, as people began commenting, which became a torrent of messages of support contrasted with calls for her firing.
In 2016, then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem to protest and draw attention to numerous killings of black Americans by police. The movement soon sparked widespread controversy as conservatives expressed outrage at the notion of protesting during the anthem. Among the louder voices of criticism was President Donald Trump, who called for Kaepernick and other “sons of bitches” who “disrespect” the U.S. flag to be fired. Kaepernick, who has been out of the NFL since 2017, is currently suing the league alleging that team owners colluded to not hire him in retaliation.
One of the Niners cheerleaders is taking a knee. pic.twitter.com/DW5SJqh9zj
— #GatorBait (@GatorLenny) November 2, 2018
In May, the league said that it had instituted a policy to fine players if they kneel during the anthem — a move that was hailed by the president, who added that players who didn’t stand “shouldn’t be in the country” at all. The league later rescinded the policy after facing pushback from the NFL Player’s Association.
Lenny Harold, a fan who attended Thursday night’s game and took one of the first images of the cheerleader’s protest, told CBS News that he had been overwhelmed by the public response after he shared the picture of the cheerleader’s “brazen and bold” protest.
“I’m just here for the game, I had no intention of doing anything divisive or important. All I did was take a picture, I just thought it was a cool moment,” Harold explained. “I can’t even use my phone at this point, I’m getting so many retweets and replies. And it’s really interesting, some people think she’s really awesome and other people are like, ‘You should fire her!’” As of this writing, the cheerleader has yet to be identified.
Watch CBS News’ interview with Harold below.
Read the full story at BBC News.