NFL cheerleaders explain why they haven’t taken a knee in protest

October 7, 2017

NFL cheerleaders have been noticeably absent from the recent kneeling protests on the football fields. We wondered why, because we’re sure there were some women amongst them who would have partaken. Turns out, the reason is pretty disappointing — not because the cheerleaders didn’t want to kneel, but felt as if they couldn’t.

NFL cheerleaders have been noticeably absent from the recent kneeling protests on the football fields. We wondered why, because we’re sure there were some women amongst them who would have partaken. Turns out, the reason is pretty disappointing — not because the cheerleaders didn’t want to kneel, but felt as if they couldn’t.

The cheerleaders felt as if their voices didn’t matter to the league, that their jobs would have been in jeopardy had they kneeled in protest along with football players, and that they were encouraged to cheer, and only cheer.

“Bottom line, cheerleaders are a little fish in a big pond,” Michele Wright a former cheerleader for the Jacksonville Jaguars told Elle.com, “Although they are of great worth and value to the football experience and their respective communities, many are undervalued. So to remain neutral, they wouldn’t take a knee.”

One former cheerleader spoke off the record and said, “Our job as cheerleaders isn’t to create controversy. It’s to make everyone happy.”

Cheerleaders of the Tennessee Titans walk on the sideline during a game between the Tennessee Titans and the Seattle Seahawks at Nissan Stadium on September 24, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

It’s sad that while the players feel secure enough to share their opinions through peaceful protest, the women are expected to stifle their voices and just make “everyone happy.”

Danetha Doe, a former cheerleader for the Indianapolis Colts said, “There’s a bigger conversation to be had here: Why, as women, aren’t we a bigger part of these conversations? Why isn’t our opinion valued as highly as others? We have fans as well. Why isn’t the league interested in hearing what we have to say?”

Many of the women who spoke to Elle.com said their captains wouldn’t support them if they wanted to kneel — fearing for their job security, they stayed standing.

During the protests last month, a photo of a cheerleader kneeling during the National Anthem went viral. However, that woman was a college student at Georgia Tech, and the photo was taken last year. It only went viral this year in light of the new protests.

It’s hard to hear that the NFL cheerleaders do not feel empowered to stand or kneel or share their voice in any capacity. It’s not only the men on the field who have something to say.

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