In a campus letter today, Kennesaw State University President Sam Olens says cheerleaders will return to the football field before the national anthem. After five cheerleaders took a knee in late September, the squad was kept off the field during the anthem, a decision that led to praise and protests.
When the cheerleaders were taken off the field, Olens was criticized for his failure to defend the young women. He distanced himself from the decision to keep them off the field, saying it was made by the athletics department. Student protests resulted, but Olens also won praise from political leaders in the county, two of whom claimed credit for the banishment of the cheerleaders.
The KSU cheerleaders were following the example of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other pro players, taking a knee to combat injustice and police abuse. Their protest did not disrupt campus or classes. They did so after prayer and conversations with family over what they were risking and what was at stake.
“We kneel for equality,” cheerleader Shlondra Young told the AJC. “We kneel to highlight social injustice and to highlight police brutality and kneel in honor for those who unjustly lost their lives and for those who could not kneel for themselves. We kneel in a city where a Confederate culture still exists amongst some and issues like this are placed on the back burner.”
I was among those who thought Olens missed an opportunity to make all students on his campus feel respected and valued when he neither met with the cheerleaders nor defended their right to peacefully protest.
He has done the right thing for his school. Yes, he will anger people. But that is leadership.
Here is the letter sent by Olens: