A Miss America pageant contestant won the onstage question by answering a prompt regarding NFL players protesting against racial injustice and police brutality by "taking a knee."
Miss Virginia, Emili McPhail, was asked what advice she would give to players on whether they should take a knee or stand during the national anthem.
The question was asked during Thursday's second night of preliminaries ahead of the 2019 Miss America competition.
A question about the propriety of NFL players kneeling in protest during the National Anthem helped select Miss Vir… https://t.co/YtsZFYzgWW— Lance Ing (@Lance Ing) 1536318827.0
McPhail's winning response? According to the Press of Atlantic City, she answered:
"Kneeling during the national anthem is absolutely a right that you have: to stand up for what you believe in and to make the right decision that's right for you."
But then she added:
"It's very important that we also have to take into consideration that it is not about kneeling: It is absolutely about police brutality."
McPhail won the $1,000 scholarship money after she impressed judges. Contestants are asked questions cold, meaning they do not know what they will be asked in advance and have to provide an answer within a specified timeframe.
@nbcwashington The truth is strong with this one.— Tamara Inzunza (@Tamara Inzunza) 1536330074.0
The polarizing debate about the protest by some players against racial injustice and unequal treatment by law enforcement recently came to the forefront again after Nike appointed Colin Kaepernick to be one of its spokespeople. The NFL quarterback's face is featured in ads celebrating the sports apparel's 30th anniversary of the "Just Do It" campaign along with four other athletes.
Nike shares climb after debut of Colin @Kaepernick7's 'Just Do It' ad https://t.co/RwvAMwbBZu via @nypost https://t.co/RwvAMwbBZu— rolandsmartin (@rolandsmartin) 1536351516.0
The free agent quarterback spearheaded the movement to draw awareness to the disparity in treatment and deaths of unarmed people of color by law enforcement in 2016, by refusing to stand during the national anthem. The protest against racial injustice and police brutality against unarmed people of color, especially African Americans, quickly drew national attention.
His demonstration sparked major controversy however when politicians misrepresented the purpose to bolster their own political profile.
President Trump claimed Kaepernick's gesture unpatriotic and disrespectful to veterans, despite having no veterans in his own family to consult. Several veterans groups came out in support of the right to protest racial injustice.
Trump also famously suggested that the players who protest should be fired.
Donald Trump says NFL owners should "fire" players who protest the national anthem. https://t.co/sjwcemP60o— Sporting News (@Sporting News) 1506130431.0
Other players, inspired by Kaepernick, began adopting his approach in solidarity.
After Thursday's onstage question round, reporters asked McPhail if she had any regrets about her answer potentially alienating those with a different opinion.
She said that people were entitled to their own opinions, but she believed that being true to yourself was most important.
"I said standing up for what you believe in is the most important thing that you can do, and that's what I did."
"I was very happy to have that moment, to be honest, because it's not always easy."
People lauded the contestant's articulate response, but there were still those who continue to miss the point of the protest.
And some even cited nonexistent statistical data.
@emlizphail @MissAmericaVA Is it true you said publicly that kneeling during the national anthem is ok? It is your… https://t.co/jGSlIigp5z— Plato’s Republic (@Plato’s Republic) 1536341412.0
While Whites make up the majority of the population and would logically be at the top of related statistics due to sheer numbers, every analysis of deaths during interactions with law enforcement show that by percentage of population and percentage of deaths, Native American men and women are most likely to die during any interaction with law enforcement.
Data collected by Centers for Disease Control and PreventionCNN graphic of CDC statistics
Native Americans are followed by African Americans and then Hispanics and then Whites when it comes to deaths. In relation to crimes committed, Whites come first, then African Americans, then Hispanics and then Native Americans. Asians take last position in both statistics.
Fourth in crime but first in deaths and first in crime but fourth in deaths is the disparity that is being protested. And while African Americans fall second on both lists, their percentage of death is far higher than it should be based on their percentage of the population and their percentage of crimes committed.
Law enforcement is demonstrably treating people of color differently according to the statistics. This is the only reason players kneel.
@PageantJunkies @MissAmericaLA @MissAmericaVA Does Miss Virginia Emili McPhail hate Police Officers????— Lori S (@Lori S) 1536308194.0
@emlizphail @MissAmericaVA Most wont be watching esp you since you are one of Kaepernicks fans. #IStand— 🇺🇸❌RedStateGal🇺🇸 (@🇺🇸❌RedStateGal🇺🇸) 1536319117.0
But there were plenty who were in Miss Virginia's corner, including actual veterans and not just those who claim to speak for them.
@emlizphail @MissAmericaVA Don’t pay attention to the haters! I’m an Afghanistan and Iraq veteran who agrees with,… https://t.co/euSkNAOtfC— JAG (@JAG) 1536327696.0
@washingtonpost Never been a fan of pageants but this story is refreshing to hear. I'll be rooting for Miss Virginia! Go girl! #EmiliMcPhail— T Harris✌🏼❤ = (@T Harris✌🏼❤ =) 1536328981.0
@emlizphail @MissAmericaVA You’ll have a lot of hateful comments soon flood your feed, but coming from this White C… https://t.co/vLkYnbNKzh— TM (@TM) 1536326079.0
Good on ya, Emili McPhail. You understand what the protests are about better than some citizens and much better tha… https://t.co/cph9hn3TmD— D.E. Bishop (@D.E. Bishop) 1536353586.0
@nbcwashington A young woman who gets it. There's still hope.— Zuzu (@Zuzu) 1536330229.0
In June, the Hollins University graduate won the Miss Virginia pageant with her platform focusing on ending U.S. hunger and by displaying her talent by playing the piano.
The 2019 Miss America pageant will air on Sunday, September 9, at 9 p.m. on ABC.