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10 Nov, 2017 13:56

Cheerleaders who kneeled during anthem will return to the field on Veterans Day

Cheerleaders who kneeled during anthem will return to the field on Veterans Day

Kennesaw State University (KSU) President Sam Olens has announced that the school’s football-team cheerleaders, who were sent off the field after kneeling during the anthem in September, will take part in a pre-game ceremony on Saturday.

The KSU Owls’ cheerleaders will be present this Saturday, November 11, when US military veterans will be honored. Olen addressed the university students and staff in a letter on Wednesday, in which he noted that the cheerleaders will return to the field during the national anthem.

“After much reflection, I have decided that at Kennesaw State's next home game on November 11, the pre-game program will be restored to its original format, with the cheerleaders taking the field before the singing of the National Anthem,”wrote the president.

“I will stand during the National Anthem to honor the women and men who have served in our nation's armed forces. While I choose this action, I do not believe that this debate has to be a choice between honoring our veterans and protecting the freedom of speech. We must be able to do both," he added.

Five African-American members of the cheerleading group knelt during the National Anthem prior to a game in late September, copying a movement in the National Football League (NFL), where ‘take-a-knee’ demonstrations have become common.

Shlondra Young, who was one of the five kneeling KSU cheerleaders, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that they attempted to draw attention to social injustice. “We kneel for equality,” she said.

“We kneel to highlight social injustice and to highlight police brutality and kneel in honor [of] 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.”

Following the incident, the cheerleaders were banished from the football pitch and were subsequently restricted to a stadium tunnel during the playing of the anthem. In October, reports emerged in US media stating that the head of KSU, which is Georgia’s third-largest university, was pressured by Sheriff Neil Warren and State Representative Earl Ehrhart to take action against protesting cheerleaders to prevent further development of the situation.

READ MORE: Almost entire NFL team ‘takes a knee’ in protest at owner’s ‘inmates’ remark

Ehrhart, who is also chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee, which determines KSU’s annual funding, and Warren were reportedly infuriated by the incident and urged Olen to bar the cheerleaders from taking part in pre-game ceremonies.

The leaked information, which was obtained by the media, forced Olen to apologize for his inability to tackle the controversy. “I regret how the events over the past two weeks have unfolded and admit that the circumstances could have been handled better," he said in a statement.

"I believe that a university should be a marketplace of ideas, encouraging free expression and open dialogue. To that end, I welcome the opportunity to meet with the cheerleaders and any student who wishes to participate in a discussion about how we can work together to continue to make KSU a university of which we are all proud,” Olen added.