Judge Dismisses Part of Lawsuit from Former KSU Cheerleader Who Kneeled During Football Game

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The former Kennesaw State University cheerleader who filed a lawsuit against the school’s officials and a former state representative has hit a snag in her legal fight.

A federal judge on Thursday dismissed Tommia Dean’s case against Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren and Rep. Earl Ehrhart, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In a lawsuit filed in 2018 against Warren, Ehrhart, former KSU president Sam Olens and other officials, Dean alleged her First Amendment rights were violated out of racial and political animus.

Dean was one of five cheerleaders who kneeled during the national anthem at a 2017 football game in protest of police brutality against Black people, following in line with ex-NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest.

Kennesaw State University
In this Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 photo, five Kennesaw State University cheerleaders take a knee during the national anthem prior to a college football game against North Greenville, in Kennesaw, Ga. The group of cheerleaders from the college in Georgia say they’ll take a knee in the stadium tunnel when the national anthem is played at Saturday’s homecoming game since their university moved them off the field after an earlier demonstration. (Cory Hancock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

However, on Feb. 7, Judge Timothy Batten dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint against Warren and Ehrhart. In his decision, Batten wrote that Dean did not provide the court with enough information for them to determine Warren and Ehrhart worked against the cheerleaders “for any reason other than perceived disrespect to the flag.”

“Because the Court rules for Defendants on the issue of § 1985(3) animus, it declines to address the First Amendment issue,” the order said. “The Clerk is directed to drop Ehrhart and Warren as parties to this case.”

Batten’s ruling does not affect Dean’s case against Olens and other KSU officials; they continue to remain defendants.

When Dean filed her complaint in September, she pointed out text messages between Warren and Ehrhart where they celebrated successfully pressing Olens to keep the students off the field during “The Star-Spangled Banner” in succeeding games.

“He had to be dragged there but with you and I pushing he had no choice. Thanks for your patriotism my friend,” read Ehrhart’s message to the sheriff.

The lawsuit also claimed that Ehrhart previously pressured Olens, who has since left the university, to remove the cheerleaders from the squad entirely.

When speaking about her filing on ABC’s “The View” last year, Dean said she wanted to stand up for the attacks on Black lives.

“After seeing the many killings and many attacks against minorities by police officers, I thought it was crazy to have that many,” she said, noting it “became personal” because of her brothers. “I didn’t think it was right for minorities to have to walk around and be terrified every day and to see a police officer and not know how should I act, what should I do.”

“It’s a burden to have to walk around and be scared all the time,” she added.

Still, Dean noted that there was a need for respect on both sides of the aisle.

“I think we need to have respect for both sides,” Dean explained further. “We need to at least respect one another. … I never want to come across as disrespectful to the military, that’s not what this protest is about.”

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