Protestors show their support for cheerleaders kept off field

Protestors show their support for cheerleaders kept off field

A rally hosted on the corner of Chastain Road and Frey Road on Oct. 11 attracted several Kennesaw State students and faculty in support of the five cheerleaders who took a knee during the national anthem at the Sept. 30 football game.

Those present at the rally, which was organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, argued the cheerleaders’ demonstration is a First Amendment right and criticized comments made by Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren, who expressed his outrage about the display to the Marietta Daily Journal.

“I can’t think of anything more patriotic or more American than protesting racial injustice,” said Amanda Richey, an education professor at KSU. “I think this is an opportunity for us to learn from these five courageous young women instead of silencing them.”

The organizers of the event said they will continue to hold protests, and added that they have submitted an open records request to the university asking for access to Olens’ communications with local community leaders regarding the protests.

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Ben Williams of the SCLC speaks to protestors before going in front of the news cameras about the plan to kneel, Oct. 13. Photo credit: Nick O'Neill

The cheerleaders were absent from the field during the national anthem at the football game the week following the kneeling demonstration. According to the athletics department, keeping the cheerleaders in the tunnel for the pre-show was part of a restructuring of the game day schedule to align with how other universities introduce their teams. President Sam Olens acknowledged the odd timing of the restructuring but would not confirm it was connected to the protests of the previous week.

The cheerleaders indicated they are skeptical of this explanation, but said that regardless of whether they are permitted onto the field, they still will continue to take a knee in the tunnel of the stadium when the national anthem is played.

One of the cheerleaders, Michaelyn Wright, said a coach tried to prevent her from walking onto the field during the national anthem the following week of the Oct. 3 game, telling her it was for her own safety.

The cheerleaders also described a similar event that happened last year, in which a football player stayed seated for the national anthem. Subsequently, the football team was no longer on the field during the anthem.

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