Should Kennesaw State president stand up for cheerleaders who knelt?

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

In all the debate around athletes taking a knee, no one was as eloquent as 97-year-old World War II veteran John Middlemas.

In a photo went viral, the Missouri farmer took a supportive knee because “those kids have every right to protest.”

He’s right. Now, if only Kennesaw State University President Sam Olens would take such a spirited and public stand on behalf of freedom of speech and his students.

Olens hasn’t talked about the five Kennesaw State cheerleaders who knelt on the football field during the national anthem at the Sept. 30 game.

Following the example of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other pro players, the KSU students took a knee to combat injustice and police abuse. They didn’t resort to torches and Nazi salutes. They didn’t shout down opponents or prevent classmates from learning.

They protested with dignity and respect, not turning their backs on the flag or America but, as Jeremy Adam Smith and Dacher Keltner wrote in Scientific American, transforming ” a collective ritual—the playing of the national anthem—into something somber, a reminder of how far we still have to go to realize the high ideal of equal protection under the law that the flag represents. ”

The criticisms that such displays are disrespectful to the military have been countered by an outpouring of support from veterans. In a social media campaign, veterans have shared, “I’ll take a kneel against injustice and oppression before I stand with those who turn a blind eye to it,” and “We don’t join to serve/honor a flag or song. We join for the people and the expectations of what America could/can be.”

No, not everyone agrees with the KSU cheerleaders, including the Cobb County sheriff and some legislators, and those opponents have a right to object. As president of KSU and the former Georgia attorney general, Olens is the ideal leader to explain and defend the first amendment rights of the student protesters and their critics.

As David French, an attorney and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, wrote in the National Review:

When the history of this unfortunate, polarized era of American life is written, whether a man stood or knelt will matter far less than the values we all lived by. Americans who actually defend the letter and spirit of the First Amendment will stand (or kneel) proudly in the history books. Those who seek to punish their political opponents’ speech, on the other hand, can stand or kneel as they wish — so long as they hang their heads in shame.

KSU now is keeping the cheerleaders off the field during the anthem, a change the school says was already planned and designed to give the 45 cheerleaders and band a better introduction when entering the field. The cheerleaders are rightfully skeptical of that explanation.

KSU issued a statement: “Kennesaw State University 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 an AJC story on the young women, higher education reporter Eric Stirgus wrote:

The five cheerleaders, all African-American, said they had been concerned about the issues raised by the NFL players and discussed kneeling during the anthem, as a Georgia Tech dancer did during a game last season. They stressed their actions were not meant as an attack on the flag. They talked and prayed about it with each other and then their families. Some family members fully supported their decision. Others were concerned.

The students said in a group interview Tuesday they’ll continue to get on one knee during the anthem, while they’re in the stadium hallway. “Somebody has to take a stand,” said second-year student Taylor McIver.

She is right. Somebody ought to take a stand. How about Olens?

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

226 comments
Babycat
Babycat

If these girls truly want to make a difference, then they should be the first ones signing up to volunteer with Hosea Feed the Hungry, working with disadvantaged youth, committing to a day of service, etc.  Okay, let's see how much community service they have done and will do.  We are watching! 

Summer Smith
Summer Smith

What this is.....Is the lack of parents not teaching their children Respect, Honor and Dignity and is exactly what is crippling this country.

Terry McMichael
Terry McMichael

Freedom of speech does not hold water in this instance. Once they put on that uniform they represent that school not them selves. They did not look to their future they will see just how foolish they were when they try an get a security clearance. There will always be a red flag in their back ground

Kimberly Fleming
Kimberly Fleming

A lot of y'all showing ya true colors for sure on this post. It doesn't surprise me though

Jill Horne Jones
Jill Horne Jones

They only want attention and they're getting it. They will get tired and bored soon enough.

Jeanie Grant
Jeanie Grant

Who cares what these cheerleaders think?

Tiffany Butler
Tiffany Butler

Yes, he should stand up and try to understand their POV.

William Pennix Jr.
William Pennix Jr.

Yes he should support them. Freedom of speech and college is a time a persons life that helps develop, mold, and shape an individual.

William Beck
William Beck

Looks like some have taken the knee before...

Loisrae Mitchell
Loisrae Mitchell

He handled it well by changing certain procedures, including when athletes, coaches and cheerleaders enter the field!

Dawn Keels
Dawn Keels

So he gets to pick and choose how folks exercise their 1st amendment.

Bonnie Wilson
Bonnie Wilson

If they won't stand they should be kicked off. Or they should do like the foot ball players and quit and leave the country. That'll show us.

Rosalie N Lonnie Murray
Rosalie N Lonnie Murray

Hopefully they are not going to school with Federal Aid or Grants...if so...suspension!!!!!

readcritic
readcritic

And pay back any funds received so that a more deserving individual can benefit.

readcritic
readcritic

Students in grades 1 - 12 also refuse to stand for the morning Pledge of Allegiance in classrooms. Many are illegal and/or get public assistance in the form of "Free" education, medical, vision,  food (plus free lunch program), phone, and housing assistance paid for by citizens.  It is a shame that veterans who spill their blood and the taxpayers who are forced to pay the bill are shown such disrespect. Those who choose to sit or play on their phones or sleep or kneel through the U.S. anthem or pledge don't deserve to get any benefits provided so generously by those who sacrificed so much. What other countries would be willing to give them anything? Perhaps they should find another country to support them and move there.

DrProudBlackMan
DrProudBlackMan

@readcritic Perhaps you should put aside your G.E.D. studies for one minute and take the time to research information before you post your deplorable bull crap.


West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette

Diana Fuller
Diana Fuller

Yes the president should stand up for them...It is their right to protest..If the president doesnt then its because they are black...And he is a racist

Clay Greenway
Clay Greenway

He doesn’t have much choice. It’s that whole pesky first amendment thing and KSU being a state university.

Ralph Apa
Ralph Apa

Those cheerleaders should be removed from the squad. PERIOD

Corey Ingram
Corey Ingram

It baffles me that anyone needs to say anything. Let them be

Stephen Bruner
Stephen Bruner

“KSU President Sam Olens has yet to talk about the five cheerleaders who knelt on the football field during the national anthem.” NOR SHOULD HE! Not an academic nor legal issue involving a student or representative of the university. ...move on.

Roland Boney
Roland Boney

Just cut the whole program. They can still keep their rights and kneel in the parking lot after classes,

Brian Mosher
Brian Mosher

It starts with the parents I wouldn't worry about the president of the school I worry about my dad

Thomas Adams
Thomas Adams

No win situation! However, someone needs to set some rules!!#Olen's !!!

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

KSU Cheerleaders don't have any idea what they are claiming as a " Cause " they just want to be noticed like a lot of spoiled brats while their parents pay the bills.  these kids wouldn't know real discrimination if it hit them in the face  LOL

Kasandra Powell
Kasandra Powell

How is this still up for discussion? It's. Their. Right. Moving on.

pakmail417
pakmail417

Those of us old enough to remember war and to go to war understand the reverence we should pay to our national anthem and flag and cherish our freedoms that others have sacrificed. Including the right to protest. I believe they (cheerleaders and players) have a right to protest, I do not believe you protest against those that have and will die for your freedom and rights. 

Daytripper1212
Daytripper1212

Maureen is fanning the flames. To advance her view on the matter, she cherry-picked quotes from the minority of veterans that support the kneeling. But as a veteran who is a member of many veteran organizations, I can tell you that a very large majority of veterans believe that such protests flagrantly disrespect our Flag and National Anthem, and we are deeply offended by such folk that do so. 

Eric Johnson
Eric Johnson

Fire him today. Not having a conversation on the issue won't make it go away, it makes matters worse.

ElderSage
ElderSage

If the KSU President supports the protesting cheerleaders, he will be fired.

Marcia Wyckoff
Marcia Wyckoff

Tell me the meaning of the national anthem.. the true meaning.. no African American should stand for that.. the real American history.. not watered down bs the taught us in school

Babycat
Babycat

If they have the right to kneel, then we have the right to pray.

Cats_Resist
Cats_Resist

@Babycat You do have the right to pray! Nobody said otherwise. Go right ahead. Just don't commandeer public resources to advance your personal politics, as Mr. Olens appears to have done in this case.