Protesting Kennesaw State Cheerleaders Don't Make Team

August 30, 2018

Four Kennesaw State University cheerleaders who protested police brutality by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem at football games last season will not be on the squad this fall, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. A fifth will join the squad.

The protests prompted the university to keep all cheerleaders in a stadium tunnel during the anthem; it also prompted campus protests and may have helped lead to the resignation of the university’s president, Sam Olens.

The cheerleaders, who become known as the Kennesaw Five, said they knelt at a Sept. 30 football game to protest injustice and racism. Many in the community saw the protests differently, including Cobb County sheriff Neil Warren, who said the students “need to learn all that the flag truly represents.”

Last October, after the first protests, University System of Georgia officials held a two-day meeting during which they told Olens and the presidents of the state's public universities that state guidance says taking a knee during the anthem is free speech protected by the U.S. Constitution -- and that it should not be interfered with unless it causes a disruption.

The following Saturday, Kennesaw State nonetheless kept its cheerleaders in the stadium tunnel before the anthem. In a subsequent report, system officials said Olens didn’t follow the guidance.

The Journal-Constitution last October reported that Warren and State Representative Earl Ehrhart boasted in a series of text messages about pressuring Olens into keeping the cheerleaders off the field. The text messages, which the newspaper obtained under open-records law, appeared to contradict Olens’s contention that the move was made by the athletic department and had nothing to do with the protests.​

“Thanks for always standing up too [sic] these liberal that hate the USA,” Warren wrote to Ehrhart, who chairs the committee that allocates funds to public universities.

In a later message, Ehrhart seemingly confirmed that Olens had caved to pressure, writing, “He had to be dragged there but with you and I pushing he had no choice.”

Olens announced plans to resign last December. His replacement, Pamela Whitten, told the Journal-Constitution last week that she would be open to meeting with the cheerleaders and students involved in the protests.

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