Kennesaw State student reaches settlement over anthem protest lawsuit

A Kennesaw State University student has reached a settlement with several defendants she accused of violating her civil rights after she and other cheerleaders kneeled during a football game to protest police misconduct and other issues.

The student, Tommia Dean, settled the case last week with four of the five defendants: former university president Sam Olens, former state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, deputy athletics director Matt Griffin and senior associate athletics director Scott Whitlock, said Randy Mayer, an attorney for Dean. Dean's case against Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren, who didn't choose to enter settlement discussions, will go to the U.S. Court of Appeals, said Mayer. Ehrhart said Wednesday he did not agree to the settlement.

Mayer declined to discuss the details of the settlement in a telephone interview Monday, but said “it was an amicable resolution all the way around.”

Dean and four other cheerleaders took a knee during the National Anthem before KSU’s Sept. 30, 2017 football game — following similar actions by some NFL players, led by Colin Kaepernick — to raise awareness about police brutality and racism.

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Warren, Ehrhart and others complained to Olens that the cheerleaders' actions were unpatriotic. Before the next game, KSU's athletics department decided that cheerleaders would no longer be on the field during the anthem. The department later reversed course and the University System of Georgia released a report that November concluding KSU did not follow the system's guidance that such protests were protected by the U.S. Constitution and should not be interfered with, unless it causes a disruption.

Dean filed her lawsuit in September 2018. The student, now a KSU senior, said she did not intend to disrespect the anthem or the American flag.

“She’s happy that it’s mainly behind her,” Mayer said.