Four Kennesaw State University cheerleaders were seen taking a knee in the stadium tunnel during the national anthem at the university’s football game Saturday evening, continuing their protest to raise awareness about police misconduct and racial inequality.
The protest is part of an ongoing controversy on the 35,000 student campus that has drawn national attention over free speech rights and patriotism.
About three dozen students remained seated during the anthem, with some raising their fists in solidarity with the cheerleaders. A dozen students marched around Fifth Third Bank Stadium chanting “land of the free but we can’t take a knee.”
Most spectators stood during the anthem.
The cheerleaders first took at knee at the Sept. 30 football game, and since then the university makes them wait in the tunnel during the national anthem.
Woodstock resident John Smith, 55, said he was dismayed by the protest as he arrived at the stadium Saturday.
“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “When they put that uniform on, they’re representing the university. They shouldn’t be protesting. It’s a respect thing.”
KSU has been under a national microscope after five cheerleaders knelt during the national anthem at the Sept. 30 football game to protest police misconduct and the subsequent decision to keep cheerleaders off the field during the anthem, which many feel violate the students' free speech rights. KSU officials have said the change had nothing to do with the cheerleaders.
The state Board of Regents announced Wednesday it's conducting a review of how KSU responded to the cheerleaders' actions after text messages obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren boasting to state Rep. Earl Ehrhart that they convinced KSU president Sam Olens to keep cheerleaders off the field.
Several campus protests have taken in support of the cheerleaders during the last two weeks. But many Cobb residents have described the cheerleaders’ actions as unpatriotic.