The cheerleader has not been identified, but she was photographed kneeling with her hands on her hips while her squadmates stood around her. Raiders fan Lenny Herold posted a photo of the moment on Twitter. He later told KPIX, “I just thought it was a peaceful, respectful, constitutionally protected free speech.”
Herold also told HuffPost that no one else seemed to notice the gesture at the time, adding, “She stayed with her teammates for the rest of the game, and they appeared to support her.”
NBC Bay Area reporter Damian Trujillo posted his own shot of the moment from a different angle, in which the cheerleader can clearly be seen on one knee. It’s a bold statement, as a report by Elle.com last year found that many cheerleaders may fear losing their jobs if they join the protest, while some former cheerleaders said it would contrast the positivity they are expected to display.
“If I was still a cheerleader, I wouldn’t kneel down, it’s not my job,” one former cheerleader told the site. “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. We are the appetizers, the players are the entrees. They are who people come to see.”
Although no NFL cheerleaders have been known to take a knee before yesterday’s game, some college cheerleaders have done so — and received backlash for the gesture. Alyssa Parker knelt with several other Buena Vista University cheerleaders last year, and ended up quitting the team rather than agreeing not to kneel in the future.
This year, Kennesaw State University cheerleader Tommia Dean filed a complaint against her school and local officials for violating her right to protest after she and her several of her squadmates chose to take a knee.
Although Colin Kaepernick is not currently playing football, other NFL players have continued to protest in his absence. Two players on the Miami Dolphins took a knee during a preseason opener and into the new season, while Kaepernick’s former teammate Eric Reid also knelt during his first game with the Carolina Panthers last month.
Cover image: Jason O. Watson / Getty Images