Kennesaw State cheerleader settles lawsuit over school deliberately hiding anthem protest

Jack Baer
Five Kennesaw State University cheerleaders take a knee during the national anthem prior to a college football game on Sept. 30. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

The saga that saw the resignation of the Kennesaw State University president after texts emerged showing a deliberate attempt to suppress the anthem protests of five cheerleaders has now seen one of the cheerleaders settle a lawsuit with four of five defendants.

Tommia Dean, one of the Kennesaw State cheerleaders who were forced to wait in the stadium tunnel as the anthem played after their kneeling protest against police misconduct, reached a settlement after alleging her civil rights were violated, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The defendants who settled are reportedly former university president Sam Olens, former state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, deputy athletics director Matt Griffin and senior associate athletics director Scott Whitlock. Dean’s lawsuit against Cobb County sheriff Neil Warren will reportedly proceed after he chose not to settle.

Dean reportedly declined to reveal details of the settlement, but called the resolution “amicable.”

Texts showed plan to hide cheerleaders’ protest

Back on Sept. 30, 2017, when the debate about Colin Kaepernick’s social justice protests were still raging, five Kennesaw State cheerleaders kneeled during the national anthem of an Owls football game against North Greenville University. For subsequent games, the cheerleaders were moved to a stadium tunnel while the anthem played.

The school claimed the change was part of a new procedure that was already in the works at the time of the protest, but texts found from local outlet 11Alive showed that to be a lie.

Ernhart reportedly criticized Olens for “coddling” the cheerleaders and Warren, the sheriff, replied, “Let me know what I can do to help you stop this BS on taxpayer-funded college campuses.”

Further texts indicated the pressure on Olens was successful in getting him to hide the cheerleaders’ protest:

“I just got off the telephone with [Olens] again, reference the unpatriotic cheerleaders kneeling during the national anthem,” Warren wrote. “He assured me that the cheerleaders will not be on field from now on.”

“Thanks for always standing up to these liberal[s] that hate the USA.”

“Yes, we spoke last night,” Ehrhart replied. “[Olens] had to be dragged there, but with you and I pushing, he had no choice. Thanks for your patriotism, my friend.”

The resulting outcry led to Olens’ resignation and the cheerleaders’ return to the field. Dean, now a senior at Kennesaw State, filed her lawsuit in September 2018.

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