KENNESAW, Ga. - The Georgia Board of Regents said Tuesday that Kennesaw State University did not follow guidance when it kept cheerleaders off the field after several of them took a knee during the National Anthem.
University System of Georgia officials told KSU president Sam Olens and the presidents of its public universities during a two-day October meeting that taking a knee during the anthem is free speech protected by the U.S. Constitution and should not be interfered with, unless it causes a disruption. Any changes by a college should be discussed with the USG.
The Saturday after that meeting, KSU implemented a change that kept its cheerleaders in its stadium tunnel before the anthem.
In a report to the chancellor of the University System of Georgia, the Board of Regents concluded that Olens was aware of the change three days before it went into effect and did nothing to stop it.
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They also found that Olens failed to advise the university system office of the proposed change even though he was instructed to do so.
This stems from a KSU home game on Sept. 30 when several KSU cheerleaders took a knee during the National Anthem to protest police misconduct and racial inequality.
The University System advised Olen that such protests were constitutionally protected free speech as long as they weren't disruptive.
Still, the university received outside pressure to end the protests, including calls from the Cobb County sheriff and a state representative.
By the next home game, the cheerleaders were kept off of the field during the anthem.
The athletics department initially maintained that the change was an effort to improve the fan experience and tighten up the run of show, but the Board of Regents calls that explanation into question due to the timing of the change.
The five-page review is a rare rebuke of Olens, who’s been one of the state’s most influential leaders for the past two decades.
Olens is the former Georgia attorney general, Cobb County government and Atlanta Regional Commission chairman. He was named KSU’s president in November 2016.
KSU has about 35,000 students, the USG’s third-largest enrollment.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this article.
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