Some cheerleaders take a knee during the national anthem prior to the matchup between Kennesaw State and North Greenville on Saturday Sept. 30, 2017. (Cory Hancock / Special to the AJC)
Photo: Cory Hancock/Cory Hancock
Photo: Cory Hancock/Cory Hancock

KSU cheerleaders kept off field after some knelt during national anthem

A week after a handful of Kennesaw State University cheerleaders took a knee during the national anthem, the squad didn’t take the field at all during pregame activities. 

At Saturday night’s football game, the cheerleaders instead stayed off the field at the stadium.

Mike DeGeorge, the assistant athletic director for communications and broadcasting, said the students’ choice of protest wasn’t part of the decision. 

“We are always looking for ways to improve the fan experience,” he said. “As the season unfolds, we have made several changes including a better introduction of the mascot and cheerleaders to match what we do for the band.

RELATED: Cam Newton on Colin Kaepernick’s protests: ‘He made the ultimate sacrifice’

However, State Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, told local media last week that a directive to keep the squad off the field likely could come from KSU President Sam Olens. The comments came after Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren was reported taking note of cheerleaders’ taking a knee at the Sept. 30 game between KSU and North Greenville. 

Warren and Olens did not immediately respond to requests for comment by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

More than a year ago, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began protesting police brutality against minorities by kneeling silently during the national anthem. Even in the wake of critics’ saying that his action disrespected the U.S., more athletes — on pro, college and high school teams — have been sitting, kneeling, locking arms or remaining in locker rooms during the anthem. President Donald Trump weighed in last month to say NFL players should stand for the national anthem or be fired for their defiance.

Davante Lewis, who said his sister is one of the cheerleaders who took a knee, said despite Twitter chatter, the cheerleaders were not harassed at their homes after the game, but they feel threatened after the sheriff’s public comments. 

Lewis told the AJC a deputy appeared at one of the cheerleaders’ homes a few weeks ago, which the AJC has not confirmed, and because of that incident, they are all more fearful now that Warren has voiced his opinion.

“The county sheriff has been vocal about how the cheerleaders’ actions were disrespectful and their fear is exacerbated now,” Lewis said.

MORE: Parents angry at Cobb school about Civil War dress-up day

Tammy Demel, a spokeswoman for the university, said KSU “believes that it is important to honor the national anthem. It is equally as important to respect the rights of individuals as protected under the First Amendment.”

In other news:

APD Police Chief Erika Shields discusses her thoughts on the recent controversy over NFL players kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before games.

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.