A week after a handful of Kennesaw State University cheerleaders took a knee during the national anthem, the squad didn’t take the field at all during pregame activities.
At Saturday night’s football game, the cheerleaders instead stayed off the field at the stadium.
Mike DeGeorge, the assistant athletic director for communications and broadcasting, said the students’ choice of protest wasn’t a factor in the decision.
“We are always looking for ways to improve the fan experience,” he said. “As the season unfolds, we have made several changes including a better introduction of the mascot and cheerleaders to match what we do for the band.”
However, State Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, told local media last week that a directive to keep the squad off the field likely could come from KSU President Sam Olens. The comments came after Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren was reported taking note of cheerleaders’ taking a knee at the Sept. 30 game between KSU and North Greenville.
Warren and Olens did not immediately respond to requests for comment by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
More than a year ago, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began protesting police brutality against minorities by kneeling silently during the national anthem. Even in the wake of critics’ saying that his action disrespected the U.S., more athletes — on pro, college and high school teams — have been sitting, kneeling, locking arms or remaining in locker rooms during the anthem. President Donald Trump weighed in last month to say NFL players should stand for the national anthem or be fired for their defiance.
Davante Lewis, who said his sister is one of the cheerleaders who took a knee, said despite Twitter chatter, the cheerleaders were not harassed at their homes after the game, but they feel threatened after the sheriff’s public comments.
Lewis told the AJC a deputy appeared at one of the cheerleaders’ homes a few weeks ago, which the AJC has not confirmed, and because of that incident, they are all more fearful now that Warren has voiced his opinion.
“The county sheriff has been vocal about how the cheerleaders’ actions were disrespectful and their fear is exacerbated now,” Lewis said.
Tammy Demel, a spokeswoman for the university, said KSU “believes that it is important to honor the national anthem. It is equally as important to respect the rights of individuals as protected under the First Amendment.”