WASHINGTON — A few minutes before kickoff last Saturday at Howard University’s Greene Stadium — about two miles from the White House — the public address announcer said,
“We ask that you please rise as we honor the United States of America.”
At the 50-yard-line, four members of the Air Force R.O.T.C. presented the colors.
But when the university’s “Showtime” marching band played “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Howard’s cheerleaders, who were lined up at one end zone, did not heed the request. They were kneeling.
Much discussion has focused on N.F.L. players who have knelt during pregame renditions of the anthem to protest what they see as systemic racism. The player who ignited these demonstrations last season, quarterback Colin Kaepernick, has not been offered a job in the league since opting out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers in March. President Trump used a crude epithet in a reference last month to the protesting players, saying they should be fired, and the N.F.L. is pushing players to stand.
With a few exceptions, the protests have not spread to the college game, which generally does not have players on the sidelines during the anthem. Since early last season, however, Howard’s cheerleaders have performed their own protest.
“I think about the national anthem and what it stands for,” said one of the captains of the squad, Sydney Stallworth, a junior from Odessa, Fla., as she applied foundation to her face before the game. “I think about liberty and justice for all, and how it’s not being executed in our country right now. And I think about how lucky I am to go to the greatest historically black university in the country — not arguably; it’s thegreatest — and so lucky to have this platform.”