A lawmaker texted a Georgia sheriff and boasted how the two pressured Kennesaw State University president, Sam Olens, to take action after five black cheerleaders knelt to protest racial injustice during the national anthem at Sept. 30th football game. The cheerleaders were told they’d be kept off the field in a stadium tunnel at future pregame activities.
In the texts, state Republican Rep. Earl Ehrhart and Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren thanked each other for their patriotism. Ehrhart said Kennesaw State President Sam Olens had to be pressed to act.
University officials have said moving the cheerleaders before kickoff was one of several changes designed to enhance the game-day atmosphere.
After the Sept. 30 game, athletic department officials informed Olens they were making changes to pregame activities, which involved the cheerleading squad, the president said in a statement.
The unfolding drama prompted a hastily called meeting of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia on Wednesday afternoon to discuss “recent developments in a personnel matter.” Afterward, the university system announced, “a special review to look into recent allegations raised about athletic processes at Kennesaw State University.” No details were released.
Ehrhart chairs a panel that allocates funds to Georgia’s public universities, including Kennesaw State, northwest of Atlanta. With 35,000 students, Kennesaw State is Georgia’s third-largest university and one of the nation’s 50 largest public institutions.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution last week asked Olens whether there were “any pressure or demands from any individuals and organizations to change the policy regarding cheerleaders at sporting events,” to which Olens replied “No.”
The cheerleaders said they adopted the protest after watching the national debate on NFL players kneeling during the anthem. The NFL has been embroiled in controversy over players using the anthem to protest racial inequality, protests that have spread at times to college and high school sporting venues.
The cheerleaders are vowing to kneel in the stadium tunnel Saturday — even though they will be outside of public view — before the school’s homecoming game.