ITHACA, NY – At least one local resident is standing — or rather not standing — in solidarity with prominent national athletes who are protesting the national anthem.

Almost two weeks ago, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made headlines by sitting while the Star-Spangled Banner was played, rather than standing as is tradition. Kaepernick has said that he cannot in good conscience stand and take pride in the flag of a country that oppresses people of color, specifically calling attention to the disproportionate police shootings of black men.

In a later game he opted to kneel, and was joined by a few other players. More recently, Megan Rapinoe of the United States women’s national soccer team also knelt during the anthem, in solidarity with Kaepernick and the other athletes. Rapinoe, who is gay, said she also understood what it meant to look at the flag and feel that it doesn’t protect all of your liberties.

Joanne Cipolla-Dennis, of Dryden, is bringing this action to a local level. During Tuesday’s meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature, Cipolla-Dennis opted to take to one knee rather than stand during the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

During the public comment period, Cipolla-Dennis explained her action:

“I cannot say that pledge in good conscience and I haven’t been able to say that in decades,” she said. “I stand in solidarity with Megan Rapinoe and Mr. Kaepernick, who I also support, because we’re affected differently by the words of that flag and that pledge. I haven’t experienced the same freedoms that you have as a gay American. I cannot walk freely without fear.”

Cipolla-Dennis went on to say that she had previously expressed a fear of the police in the community, an issue which was not addressed in the press or by legislators.

“I feel very differently about that pledge,” she continued. “I also served 10 years with my partner under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, one of the most heinous things this country has ever done to a human being, to silence them on who they were born to be. So those have repercussions that I still have to deal with as an American.”

Like Kaepernick, Rapinoe and others that have taken similar actions, Cipolla-Dennis says she plans to continue to protesting the pledge, until “every black person can walk freely with fear of being shot by a person they pay.”

(Featured image from Tompkins Legislature livestream)

Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.