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Why it was especially brave for an NFL cheerleader to take a knee

Why it was especially brave for an NFL cheerleader to take a knee
[Photo: John Martinez Pavliga/Flickr]

NFL cheerleaders don’t have it easy. Not only are they paid minimum wage, with no health benefits, in an industry that rakes in $14 billion a year in revenue, but they have almost no job security. They’re also subject to weight monitoring, are often forced to work second jobs, and are frequently told how replaceable they are, according to reports.

That is why it was particularly impressive last night when a San Francisco 49ers cheerleader dropped to her knee during the national anthem before her team faced off against the Oakland Raiders. While college and high school cheerleaders have taken part in the nationwide protests against police brutality, ABC News reports that this is believed to the first public protest by an NFL cheerleader.

Regardless of your stance on the national anthem protests, it’s typically too risky for NFL cheerleaders to voice any sort of displeasure with the gig, let alone take part in a protest. If players can take a knee, it rarely costs them their jobs. Cheerleaders don’t have the same luxury. They don’t have a players’ association advocating on their behalf, and they are expected to adhere to strict codes of conduct on and off the field. Some even have to pay for their own uniforms.

When Elle.com attempted to interview more than 50 NFL cheerleaders, team captains, and cheerleader coordinators, they all either declined to be interviewed or never responded to the request. The former NFL cheerleaders they spoke to all said they would never have participated in the protest because it was against “cheer culture.”

It’s fitting that this still-anonymous yet brave cheerleader’s protest took place on Colin Kaepernick’s home turf, as his silent protest sparked a movement and most likely cost him his job (but earned him a Nike campaign).

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