Kennesaw State University (KSU) in Kennesaw, Georgia, has cut four of the five cheerleaders who took a knee during the playing of the national anthem last year from the cheer squad, according to Brietbart and other news outlets.
Four of the five kneelers did not make the cut for the 2018 football season, while KSU’s athletic department reported that 91 women tried out for the 52 spots on the various cheer squads — up from 61 applicants last year, according to KSU school newspaper The Sentinel.
I cheer for Keenesaw State U! Now they are benched. 2-4-6-8 would don't we appreciate? Kneelers! Kneelers! Kneelers! Go Team! https://t.co/5o1234sbfw
— Bradley Blakeman (@BlakemanB) August 24, 2018
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The department also noted that three other members of last year’s teams did not make the cut for this year, either.
“Similar to all KSU sports teams, multi-year spots on rosters are not guaranteed, and all student-athletes must earn their position on a team,” a letter from the KSU athletic department stated, according to The Sentinel.
Some students aren’t buying it at all.
“Why can’t they make the cheerleading team if they are fit?” one student said to local NBC affiliate 11Alive.com.
“They’re perfect individuals for the team. Why can’t they do it?”
“I think they’re just saying that [dropping the cheerleaders based on their skill level] as an excuse for kneeling,” another said. “Kennesaw wants to avoid being noticed.”
The five cheerleaders first made national news last year when they joined in with the NFL’s protests by kneeling national anthem, earning them the nickname “The Kennesaw Five,” as Breitbart reported.
The controversy over kneeling by the cheerleaders, who are all African-American, even affected the school’s administration: Kennesaw State University President Sam Olens eventually resigned after attempting to prevent the cheerleaders from kneeling.
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Olens enacted a rule preventing the cheer teams from taking the field until after “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played, but he was accused of caving to local politicians. And his compromise satisfied neither the protesters nor those who opposed the protests — at which point Olens decided he was no longer effective in his position.
“I have decided that new leadership will be required for KSU to fully realize its potential,” Olens wrote in an email to faculty and students in December of 2017, noted Breitbart.
“The Board of Regents respects and is grateful for the values that our flag represents, which guarantee the very right to free expression that allows these students to engage in these activities.”
The new SSU president, Pamela Whitten, referred reporters to the statement that the collective university system of Georgia issued about the matter during last year’s controversy, according to The Sentinel.
“While we respect the First Amendment rights of individuals, it is the University of System of Georgia’s belief that everyone should stand to honor the national anthem,” the statement said.
“However, the office of the attorney general of Georgia has advised that the First Amendment protects students who kneel or sit during the national anthem,” it continued. “Therefore, USG institutions cannot prohibit or interfere with those expressions.
“The Board of Regents respects and is grateful for the values that our flag represents which guarantee the very right to free expression that allows these students to engage in these activities,” the statement said.
So far the surviving member of “The Kennesaw Five” has not spoken publicly on the matter, nor have any other cheer squad members.
The names of the four kneeling cheerleaders who were cut have not been made public.
See more on the KSU cheerleader controversy in this discussion in the video below: