Cheerleaders absent from field after kneeling during anthem

Cheerleaders absent from field after kneeling during anthem

*This article has been updated since its original posting

The Kennesaw State cheerleading squad was not present on the field for the national anthem before Saturday’s football game after five of its members took a knee during the anthem at the game on Sept. 30.

Mike DeGeorge, assistant athletic director for communications and broadcasting, said the squad did not participate in the anthem before Saturday’s game against Texas Southern because of a restructuring of the gameday schedule, not because of the prior week’s protest.

According to DeGeorge, the Department of Athletics wanted to give the cheerleaders and the team’s mascot, Scrappy, a more formal introduction between the anthem and the players running onto the field.

He said this decision is similar to other game day changes — like new security measures at the gates — made after interim Athletic Director Matt Griffin was appointed.

When asked about the timing of the change, KSU President Sam Olens said Monday that he “acknowledged the timing,” but gave no further comment.

Since last year, athletic teams at all levels have been adopting NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s practice of kneeling during the national anthem to bring attention to police brutality against people of color. Attention to the protest was rekindled last month when President Donald Trump made a statement saying that athletes should be fired if they refuse to stand.

Although there was no significant reaction from the crowd when the demonstration occurred on Sept. 30, Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren told the Marietta Daily Journal on Friday that he was “shocked,” by the display.

“Cobb County has lost sons and daughters at home and on foreign lands while protecting America,” Warren told the MDJ. “And to witness these ill-informed students acting this way clearly tells me KSU needs to get busy educating these students on more than just passing their classes. They need to learn all that the flag truly represents.”

The Cobb County Sheriff’s office declined to comment on the issue Monday, saying, “Thank you for the opportunity to be included in your story. We will not be participating in an article for your publication.”

According to the MDJ, Warren said Olens assured him “this will not happen again.” Olens confirmed to The Sentinel that the conversation did take place, but would not elaborate on the reported promise.

“The university believes that people should stand for the national anthem and support our country,” he said. “The university firmly also supports the First Amendment. I get very uncomfortable with this discussion of one over the other. It’s both. We need to support our country and we need to support the First Amendment.”

New York-based writer and activist Shaun King posted a video of the protest on his social media accounts, saying the cheerleaders’ families told him “local law enforcement has harassed them at their [homes].”

Davante Lewis, who said that one of the cheerleaders who took a knee is his sister, said that no such harassment has taken place. Lewis added that the cheerleaders feel threatened because of comments the sheriff made to the MDJ, and not because of any direct contact with law enforcement.

Lewis said law enforcement responded to a call at one of the cheerleader’s homes weeks prior to the demonstration, and that this may have been the source of King’s claim.

The Kennesaw Police Department responded to the allegations on its Facebook page, saying it does not “have jurisdiction over the University and its events. Nor do we involve ourselves in political opinions.”

“Kennesaw is a very diverse community, and our policy is to serve without bias, discrimination, or politics,” the post read. “The Kennesaw Police Department is not involved in any harassment of cheerleaders or any other person.”

Shlondra Young, a junior member of the cheerleading squad, was among those who took a knee. Young did not respond to requests for comment, but the following message was posted on her Facebook page:

“Today, I kneel for equality, I kneel for social injustice and I kneel for those who unjustly lost their lives and are no longer here to kneel for themselves. I kneel in a city where a confederate culture still exists among some and issues such as this are often placed on the back burner. I kneel in a city where I am a minority. But most importantly, I kneel for unity in a country that needs it the most right now.”

None of the other cheerleaders responded to requests for comment, but messages thanking supporters were posted on several of their social media accounts

Follow The Sentinel on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay updated as this story develops.

Cory Hancock and Nick O’Neill contributed to this article.

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  1. InFedL
    October 9, 2017 at 11:36 pm

    Absolutely disgusting and totally unacceptable disrespectful behavior. Cheerleaders should be removed from team immediately and face disciplinary measures including possible expulsion. Definitely do not want any of my children observing this type of disgusting and disrespectful trash. KSU football is absolutely over with for me as well as plenty of other Cobb residents. A real shame that this type of garbage is even tolerated by the university. This behavior is also equivalent to spitting in the faces of our veterans and service members. The lack of respect by these clueless students for our flag and country is astounding. If possible, maybe the cheerleaders could be deported to North Korea to protest! Can’t believe how they are disgracing KSU as well as themselves. They are also placing future employment opportunities in very serious jeapordy. Too bad. Never thought I’d see this repulsive garbage at KSU. I will definitely never see it again!

    1. trellieb
      October 11, 2017 at 12:28 pm

      your comments are repulsive! I’m appalled that you are attempting to bully people for their beliefs, but you have no problem displaying despicable comments hear. Do you allow your children to watch the president of the United States humiliate people on a daily basis? Do you allow your children to witness the KKK terrorize people? If you don’t think those actions are disrespectful, You should be ashamed of yourself!

      1. trellieb
        October 11, 2017 at 12:29 pm

        meant here…. but you get the point!

        1. InFedL
          October 11, 2017 at 6:33 pm


  2. Kellie Hebblethwaite
    October 10, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    To InFedL: Your post is hateful, disrespectful, and useless. It serves no positive purpose and moves no one closer to reconciliation about the issue. I think that what you want (and I’m giving you an undeserved benefit of the doubt) is for American citizens to demonstrate respect and appreciation for our country, and to do so with a sense of unity that shows American pride and strength and gratitude for all the lives lost to secure its freedom. That’s all good, but your post actually achieves the opposite. It is angry, divisive, disrespectful, and threatening. It doesn’t educate or invite cooperation or inspire anyone to stand for the flag. It expresses a desire to deprive American citizens of their right to express themselves freely and protest peacefully. If you truly care about this country more than you enjoy indulging your inner child with an anonymous online temper tantrum, you will check yourself and try to express your concerns in a way that might make the world a slightly better place. Be concerned about why people are protesting as much as how they are protesting. And before you start attacking me, I want you to know my family is military and we are not offended by people exercising their freedom. I love my country, support the military and law enforcement, and I choose to stand for the anthem. AND I believe that the people choosing to kneel during the national anthem love their country and support the military and law enforcement, too. Maybe you don’t see that because you are too busy throwing a self-righteous fit to look beyond your own narrow mind.

    1. InFedL
      October 10, 2017 at 7:21 pm

      Another disrespectful Anti American libtard clueless rant. Please spout your nonsense to the families of fallen Marines and all veterans! Astounded by your level of ignorance! Although that is par for the course for liberal anti American imbeciles! The behavior is absolutely disgusting and pure trash. I am contacting my Congressmen to suggest that all federal aid and funding be cut off to any institute of higher education which is condoning, allowing, or tolerating this type of in-Patriotic garbage and pathetic childish moronic loser behavior. KSU football is and will continue losing fans and attendance with this disgusting trash. Hilarious that this is the same school which does not permit or tolerate,free speech from any speaker which does not share their extreme liberal views, agenda, and/or extreme liberal philosophy. A shame that KSU is now also heading and dragging down a degenerate, disgusting, anti American libtard path! These cheerleaders think that by conducting these disgusting stunts that they are heroic anti Trump protesters! Laughable and pathetic! It would be an excellent suggestion to anyone looking for a real job opportunity in Georgia after graduation to be sure and not list KSU cheerleader anywhere on their resume!

      1. trellieb
        October 11, 2017 at 12:32 pm

        If you haven’t noticed, there are military officers who are also taking a knee, because they realize what this is about. Wondering if you’ve ever served in the military? wondering if you’ve ever objected to something? Probably not..

        1. InFedL
          October 11, 2017 at 5:02 pm

          Absolutely disgusting disrespect for our country, flag, and anthem. Also as an fyi, have several family members who served in the military, including WWII, and Korea. 99.99% of our service members and veterans are absolutely appalled and disgusted by this disrespectful garbage. KSU is hurting themselves with this shameful clueless trash behavior. Look at what is now happening to the NFL. A key player at Allbright College, apparently NotveryBright, was kicked off his football team today. FANTASTIC! This nonsense is going tohave serious financial and other repercussions for KSU. Hilarious that KSU has such weak and pathetic leadership beginning with the president.

  3. PTCBernie
    October 11, 2017 at 9:00 am

    From an AJC Article;

    “Somebody has to take a stand,” said second-year student Taylor McIver.

    “Someone has to take a stand.”….?! By kneeling?

    That’s not the venue, and not an appropriate way to express your view.

    Do you even know what the National Anthem represents?

    To quote bugs Bunny, “What a maroon!”.

  4. trellieb
    October 11, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    It is ridiculous that people are offended at peaceful protest, but not the unwarranted killings of innocent people. I’m disappointed that Olens assured anyone that it wouldn’t happen again. He doesn’t have the power to tell people they must stand for a national anthem. I’m also disappointed in everyone changing the narrative and making it about the country and not police brutality! Be honest and call a spade a spade. Don’t try to change the story to shame people.

    People in power are attempting to bully people for their beliefs. It’s no longer about the 1st Amendment. It’s about standing up for what we believe in!!!

  5. InFedL
    October 11, 2017 at 5:15 pm

    Also requesting our Congressmen to consider a careful re-examination of the tax status of any Georgia university which is allowing such an egregious, disgusting and shameful disrespect of our flag, country, and anthem! Absolutely disgusting, anti -American trash behavior and ignorant and shameful disrespect towards our great country! All taxpayers should certainly expect and demand that absolutely none of our tax dollars are being used or spent to support this disgusting anti American disrespectful behavior. The tax status of KSU should be reviewed and examined in detail. It appears that President Trump is also reconsidering the tax status of the NFL. Hopefully, the same will be done for universities which severely disrespect and are spitting on the USA and its patriots, citizens, and veterans, law enforcement, and many others.

  6. Sharon Wilkins Hulse
    October 16, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    The Sheriff called the President of the University after the cheerleaders Kneeled.
    Was this A Legal A

  7. U.S. Paratrooper
    October 21, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    This KSU alumnus STANDS with Sheriff Neil !