Former cheerleader suing KSU, elected officials over national anthem protests

Tommia Dean, a former cheerleader at Kennesaw State University, is suing the school and elected officials for violating her right to protest by “taking a knee” at a football game last year.

The 20-year-old filed a complaint against former KSU President Sam Olens, Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren, and retiring state Rep. Earl Ehrhart for emotional distress over violation of her First Amendment rights.

[READ: KSU cheerleaders who took knee during anthem: 'It was definitely worth it']

She told “The View” that her distress manifested in a very physical way — often feeling "worried" and "constantly on edge" wondering, "OK, is something going to happen to me now?"

“You just don’t really know how to take it but it does add stress onto your life,” Dean added.

[READ: Local college cheerleader suing over national anthem protests]

The stress exacerbated her “severe” migraines — a condition she has dealt with her whole life — forcing her to obtain a stronger medication, she said.

“I was constantly laying in bed,” she said. “I couldn’t even get out of bed because my head was hurting so bad.”

[READ: KSU cheerleaders not on field for anthem after video shows some kneeling]

At a KSU football game on Sept. 30, 2017, Dean and four other cheerleaders chose to kneel during the national anthem. As the controversy grew, they became known as the “Kennesaw Five.”

“For me … after seeing the many killings and the many attacks against minorities by police… I didn't think that it was right for minorities to have to walk around and be terrified every single day,” Dean, who is now a junior at the school, explained. “It's a burden to have to walk around and be scared all the time.”

[READ: 4 of 5 KSU cheerleaders in anthem protest say they weren't picked for this year's squad]

Dean said the purpose of the protest “became personal.”

“That could have easily been one of my brothers or one of my friend's brothers. You don't know who could be next,” she said.

[READ: KSU violated guidance when keeping cheerleaders off field, regents board says]

She emphasized that she “never wanted to come across as disrespectful to the military. It's about standing up for police brutality against minorities.”

In fact, Dean has an uncle in the military, and she said she sees serving in the military as “honorable."

“You're standing up for your country, which is amazing… in the military, they're fighting for us to have these rights and for us to be able to peacefully protest.”

Read more of this article from ABC News HERE.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.