Four of five Kennesaw State cheerleaders who knelt during anthem

Four of five Kennesaw State cheerleaders who knelt during anthem not on this year's squad

From left to right, Kennedy Town, Shlondra Young and Toomia Dean talk outside the student center on the school's campus in Kennesaw, Ga., Monday, Oct. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Jeff Martin) From left to right, Kennedy Town, Shlondra Young and Toomia Dean talk outside the student center on the school's campus in Kennesaw, Ga., Monday, Oct. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Jeff Martin)

(RNN) - Seven people who made Kennesaw State's cheerleading squad last year did not make the cut this year.

Four of them were part of the "Kennesaw Five," who knelt during the national anthem last year.

The decision was made in May, but it flew under the radar all summer. With football season approaching, the story made its way back into the spotlight.

KSU told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that 95 people tried out for the 52-member squad this year. Only 61 people tried out last year.

“While they are disappointed, they’ve accepted it and went on with their academic lives,” Davante Lewis, the spokesman for the cheerleaders who knelt, told the AJC.

Even so, "Kennesaw Five" member Toomia Dean told WXIA her protest “played a role” in the decision and this is "what happens when you take a stand."

“I know the people who made it. I know their skills and I know my skills. But I don’t think it was a skills-based thing. Not to say I’m amazing or anything, but I know my skills and what I had,” Dean told the TV station.

The cheerleaders who knelt, all of them black women, did so in solidarity with a nationwide movement started by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016. His goal was to draw attention to police brutality affecting African Americans in the United States.

Like Kaepernick, the cheerleaders faced backlash. The university responded to their first protest by changing its rules and keeping all cheerleaders in the tunnel during the anthem.

The school later reversed that policy.

In a series of text messages, Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren bragged about pressuring KSU’s president into keeping the cheerleaders off the field, according to the AJC. That led to student protests on campus.

According to a report released by the University System of Georgia, KSU did not follow its guidance that protesting during the national anthem was constitutionally protected free speech that should be allowed unless it caused a disruption.

A month after that report came out, school president Sam Olens announced plans to resign.

Pamela Whitten, who was hired as KSU’s president in June, told the AJC she is willing to meet with the cheerleaders and students involved in last year’s protests.

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