The Howard University athletic department has created a new landmark for anthem protests in the U.S., after the university's entire cheerleading team kneeled for the national anthem before a football game on Sept. 17.
Before the college’s game against Hampton University, the Howard University cheerleading team kneeled as the anthem played to support San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest against the treatment of African-Americans and minorities of color in America, Essence reports.
Although similar protests have taken place nationwide since the NFL player first sat for the anthem in a preseason game in August, the Howard University protest is the first from a cheerleading team of any kind.
A photo of the cheerleaders during their protest was posted to Twitter at the start of the game by Zachary Johnson, executive president of Howard's school of communications, and has since gone viral. Although the picture has received more than 6,700 retweets and almost 10,000 likes, Johnson reported the post received pushback from opponents of the cause, according to CNN.
"The backlash African-Americans are receiving right now is the exact reason for the protest," Johnson told CNN. "It justifies the reason to do it in the first place."
Numerous notable NFL players have joined the protest since its inception in August, including Arian Foster, Eric Reid, Jeremy Lane and Brandon Marshall.
Following the example of Howard University, other cheerleaders have begun to support the cause, including University of Pennsylvania cheerleader Alexus Bazen, who kneeled for the anthem before her team’s game against Lehigh on Sept. 17, Sports Illustrated reports.