Miss America contestant advances after response to NFL protest

A Miss America contestant was selected as one of Thursday’s preliminary winners thanks in part to her response about NFL players kneeling in protest during the national anthem.

Miss Virginia Emili McPhail was asked what advice she would give players on whether to kneel or stand during The Star-Spangled Banner, the Associated Press reported.

Calling it “a right you have,” McPhail waded into the polarizing issue, adding, “But it’s also not about kneeling; it is absolutely about police brutality.”

Some NFL players have said they take a knee during the playing of the anthem to protest police brutality and social injustice.

The protest has deeply divided the country, with some calling it disrespectful to the American flag and the military. President Trump has repeatedly criticized the NFL and the players over their actions.

After the competition, McPhail was asked by reporters if she was concerned that her answer would alienate those with opposing views.

“You’re entitled to your own opinion, but I stood up for what I believed was right,” McPhail said.

The protest was started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, sparking a wave of blacklash and support. Kaepernick, who is not signed by a team, was recently announced as the newest face of Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign.

The third and final preliminaries of the beauty pageant will be held Friday and the next Miss America will be crowned Sunday in Atlantic City.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.