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Cobb sheriff, lawmaker pushed to keep KSU cheerleaders off field

Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren and state Rep. Earl Ehrhart boasted in a series of text messages about pressuring the president of Kennesaw State University into keeping the school’s cheerleaders off the field during the national anthem in response to several kneeling in protest.

The text messages, which The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained under the Open Records Act, appear to contradict the official story by university President Sam Olens that the decision to delay the timing of the cheerleaders’ entrance onto the field for football games was made by the athletic department and had nothing to do with the protest. 

“Legally I’m not sure they can stop or do anything to stop someone from this Un America ACT [sic],” Warren wrote to Ehrhart. 

In a different message, he reported that he had talked to Olens and been “assured” that the cheerleaders would not be on field until after the national anthem, which once had been the practice but at some point changed. 

“Thanks for always standing up too [sic] these liberal that hate the USA,” Warren wrote to Ehrhart, who chairs the committee that allocates funds to public universities.

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In a follow-up message, Ehrhart seemed to confirm that Olens had caved to pressure: “He had to be dragged there but with you and I pushing he had no choice. Thanks for your patriotism my friend.” 

In another text, Warren wrote, “Not letting the cheerleaders come out on the field until after national anthem was one of the recommendations that Earl and I gave him!” 

Warren also said that Olens initially told Warren’s wife that Olens didn’t have the authority to do anything, and that “Pissed [Warren] off more!” 

Olens could not immediately be reached for comment.

He cancelled a scheduled interview with the AJC last week, but responded in writing to a series of emailed questions, including: “Was there any pressure or demands from any individuals and organizations to change the policy regarding cheerleaders at sporting events?”

“No,” Olens wrote. “Decisions about game day programming is the responsibility of KSU's Department of Athletics and they have been clear about their reasons for making the adjustment.”

School officials had said the change was one of several made to improve the “fan experience.”

Ehrhart had also denied that he asked Olens to keep the cheerleaders off the field.

UPDATE: In an emailed statement Tuesday, Ehrhart said his private comments to Sheriff Warren expressed his personal feelings, and he stands by them.

“I urge President Olens to stand firm against any student publicly disrespecting our flag at a football game or any college event,” he said. “I say that as a private citizen.”

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