A Kennesaw State University cheerleader who, along with four teammates, had knelt for the National Anthem during a football game in September of last year, is suing school and state officials for violating her civil rights.
In her complaint, Tommia Dean alleges Georgia State Representative Earl Ehrhart and Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren conspired with KSU President Sam Olens and two athletic directors to keep her and her peers off the field during the playing of the Anthem.
Last year via a Freedom of Information Act request, The Atlanta Journal Constitution obtained text messages between the noted parties which seem to contradict KSU’s official story that delaying the cheerleaders’ entrance “was made by the athletic department and had nothing to do with the protest”:
“Thanks for always standing up too [sic] these liberal that hate the USA,” Warren wrote to Ehrhart, who chairs the committee that allocates funds to public universities.
In a follow-up message, Ehrhart seemed to confirm that Olens had caved to pressure: “He had to be dragged there but with you and I pushing he had no choice. Thanks for your patriotism my friend.”
In another text, Warren wrote, “Not letting the cheerleaders come out on the field until after national anthem was one of the recommendations that Earl and I gave him!”
President Olens announced his resignation last December and the kneeling controversy is noted as one of the contributing factors.
“By prohibiting the cheerleaders, including Plaintiff Dean, from taking the field and kneeling during the national anthem, Defendant Olens, Whitlock and Griffin in conspiracy under the pretext of improving the fan experience and acting under color of state law, violated Plaintiff Dean’s clearly established constitutional rights of which a reasonable person and government official would have known,” the complaint states.
Dean has suffered from migraine headaches and emotional distress, and is suing for monetary damages for “the violation of her constitutional rights.”
The complaint also states that Ehrhart and Warren were “engaged in the conspiracy against Plaintiff [Dean] because of her race and because of she was protesting police brutality against African Americans.”
Part of the complaint states that Ehrhart and Warren were “participating in a private conspiracy actionable under the Ku Klux Klan Act.”
Ehrhart, a noted supporter of student due process rights, denied he asked Olens to keep the cheerleaders, who became known as the “Kennesaw Five,” from the football field. He said his “private comments” had expressed his “personal feelings” on the matter.
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