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Out LGBTQ Teacher of the Year winner knelt during anthem at college football championship

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Kelly Holstine says she took a knee in protest during “The Star-Spangled Banner” to stand up for the marginalized and oppressed.

College Football Playoff National Championship - Clemson v LSU
Kelly Holstine, a teacher from the Extra Yard for Teachers charity, kneels during the National Anthem prior to the Clemson v LSU game in the College Football Playoff National Championship game at Mercedes Benz Superdome on January 13, 2020 in New Orleans, La.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

An openly LGBTQ person honored as “Teacher of the Year” made a big statement for inclusivity at the NCAA football championship game attended by President Donald Trump Monday.

Kelly Holstine knelt during the national anthem, according to ABC News. She tweeted she didn’t stand for the song, because she wanted to “stand up for marginalized and oppressed people.”

First Lady Melania Trump joined the president at the New Orleans game where Holstine was honored in a ceremony on the field.

The protest was not the Minnesota educator’s first foray into social activism. Last October, Holstine led a TED Talk titled, “Educators must be more than allies.” In it, she urges teachers to openly advocate for marginalized and oppressed children.

Holstine is the latest figure to protest the national anthem during a football game. The movement started in 2016, when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick at first sat, then switched to kneeling during the “Star-Spangled Banner” to promote racial justice. At the time, Outsports co-founder Cyd Zeigler wrote how Kaepernick’s actions brought meaning back to the patriotic hymn.

Soccer star Megan Rapinoe also started protesting the anthem in 2016, kneeling in solidarity with Kaepernick. She’s continued her protest over the ensuing years, refusing to sing the lyrics, including during the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Rapinoe, who is openly gay, says she will probably never sing the “Star-Spangled Banner” again.

Much like Rapinoe and Kaepernick, Holstine says she is protesting the anthem to promote social justice. Last year, she was one of two “Teachers of the Year” who skipped the White House ceremony held in their honor.

“It’s not enough to tell our kids, ‘It gets better,’” Holstine said at the time, via the Louisville Carrier Journal. “We need to make it better for them now.”

Editor’s note: The original story indicated Kelly Holstine was the first openly LGBTQ Teacher of the Year, but it has come to our attention that is not the case. She is the first openly LGBTQ State Teacher of the Year in Minnesota. We regret the error.