This Miss America contestant was asked about NFL kneeling protests — and her answer earned her a win

On Thursday night, Miss America contestant Emili McPhail, representing Virginia, was asked what she would say to NFL players about whether to stand or kneel during the national anthem as part of the preliminary round for the 2019 Miss America Competition in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

The question was nothing if not timely — Nike recently unveiled activist and former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, who was effectively blacklisted from the league after he began protesting police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem, as the face of its newest “Just Do It” campaign. That decision, predictably, led the president to tweet, “What was Nike thinking?” on Friday.

But McPhail, 22, had a (literally) winning response to the question. “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,” McPhail said, according to the Press of Atlantic City.

“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’s answer earned her the preliminary onstage question scholarship, a prize of $1,000. After the competition on Thursday, McPhail said she was grateful to have the chance to speak honestly onstage.

“I said standing up for what you believe in is the most important thing that you can do, and that’s what I did,” she said, according to the Press of Atlantic City. “I was very happy to have that moment to be honest, because it’s not always easy.”

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Preseason: NFL player actions during the national anthem
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Preseason: NFL player actions during the national anthem
Aug 25, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills (10) kneels during the national anthem prior to the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 25, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; The Chicago Bears stand during the national anthem prior to the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 24, 2018; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; The New York Jets stand for the national anthem before their game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 24, 2018; Landover, MD, USA; Denver Broncos players stand during the national anthem before the game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 18, 2018; Denver, CO, USA; Chicago Bears players lock arms during the National Anthem before the game against the Denver Broncos at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 18, 2018; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers offensive tackle Russell Okung (76) holds his fist up during the national anthem before the game against the Seattle Seahawks at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 18, 2018; Nashville, TN, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) head coach Dirk Koetter and wide receiver Mike Evans (13) stand during the national anthem before the game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 18, 2018; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel and players stand during the national anthem before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 9, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins defensive end Robert Quinn (94) raises his fist during the national anthem prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 9, 2018; Seattle, WA, USA; Members of the Indianapolis Colts stand during the national anthem before a game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 24: The Detroit Lions stand arm in arm during the National Anthem during a preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on August 24, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - AUGUST 11: Quarterback Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings stands on the sideline with teammates during the singing of the National Anthem before an NFL preseason game against the Denver Broncos at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on August 11, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 09: Jake Rodgers #68 and Alejandro Villanueva #78 of the Pittsburgh Steelers stand for the national anthem prior to the preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on August 9, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - AUGUST 11: Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos on the field during the National Anthem before a game against the Minnesota Vikings during week one of preseason at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on August 11, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. The Vikings defeated the Broncos 42-28. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Miami Dolphins receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson kneel during the national anthem as they prepare to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. The Bucs won, 26-24. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 09: The Cleveland Browns stand for the national anthem before the game against the New York Giants during their preseason game on August 9,2018 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears players stand during the national anthem before the first half against the Kansas City Chiefs in the third preseason game of the season on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
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