One Penn cheerleader knelt and another raised her fist during the national anthem at Penn football’s opening game against Lehigh.
After the Penn Band concluded the Star-Spangled Banner, College junior Alexus Bazen and Wharton junior Deena Char hugged and resumed cheering as the Quakers took the field.
Some athletes across the country have been protesting police brutality and racial inequality during the national anthem by kneeling, sitting or raising a fist, beginning with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Bazen confirmed Kaepernick’s protests were her inspiration for kneeling.
“I believe that the climate of the world right now is very hostile,” Bazen said. “All over the news there has been brutality and violence against people of color and I truly believe in ... fighting for equality and standing up for what I believe in.”
Bazen, who said today’s protest was her idea, went to her coach before the game and received permission to kneel during the anthem. Bazen said her teammates were supportive of what she chose to do regardless of her decision. Char, who raised her fist, elected to join Bazen in solidarity.
“Alexus and I started on this team together, we’ve been together for a very long time and I wanted to show my support to what I think is a very important cause and important issue,” Char said.
Char declined to comment as to whether she will continue to protest at future games. Bazen believed she has made her statement “loudly” and will again ask for permission in the future if she feels the need to protest again.
“My parents are vets, my family is military,” Bazen said. “They’ve fought for the right for me to express myself in the way I feel necessary and I have that right and support of family, friends and Penn Athletics.”
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