After making headlines for choosing to kneel during the national anthem during last year’s football season, four Kennesaw State University cheerleaders say they weren’t picked for this year’s squad.
Five African-American cheerleaders caused an uproar at the metro-Atlanta university for their on-field protests, prompting the school to ban them from pre–game festivities and remand them to the tunnel during the anthem. The girls were eventually allowed back on the field, however, after Georgia’s attorney general deemed the protests constitutionally-protected speech that could continue, so long as it wasn’t disruptive.
This year, it seems only one of the “Kennesaw 5” will be cheering on the football team.
University officials said tryouts were extremely competitive this year, noting that not all returning cheerleaders made the cut. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, KSU leaders said the “number of people who tried out in May for one of the 52 spots on this year’s squad increased to 95 from the 61 who tried out last year.”
In addition to the 33 prospective cheerleaders who tried out, “seven cheerleaders who were on the squad last year didn’t make this year’s group,” it continued.
Still, Toomia Dean, one of the students who kneeled, suspects her decision to protest had something to do with her not making the squad this time around.
“I think it played a role because I know my skills — and I had the skills two years prior to that, so I know what I can do,” Dean told 11Alive News. “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 added that this is what happens “when you take a stand.”
With KSU football’s season opener set for Thursday, all eyes will be on the sole survivor of the “Kennesaw 5,” who reportedly hasn’t yet decided if she’ll return to the team.
News that only one of the ladies were chosen for this year’s sparked quick backlash, with many accusing KSU of racism.
“THIS is actually a clear representation of the underlying racism of Cobb County and Kennesaw PERIOD,” one woman wrote of the decision. Don’t come in my mentions, it’s true. y’all just don’t wanna accept it.”
“KSU so trash for that shit with the cheerleaders,” another person wrote. “I’m embarrassed as a postgrad.”
*Editor’s note: Tanasia Kenney is an alumna of Kennesaw State University.