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College cheerleader who knelt during national anthem says she was cut from squad for kneeling

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Former Kennesaw State University cheerleader Tommia Dean said she was cut from this year’s team after kneeling in protest during the national anthem last year.

According to WXIA, Dean was one of the “Kennesaw 5 Cheerleaders” who knelt during the national anthem at last year’s Sept. 30 home football game.

Dean told WXIA in a report published Thursday that the move is “what happens when you take a stand.”

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The five cheerleaders drew both praise and criticism for the demonstration. The Georgia state attorney general said at the time that students attending a public university could kneel during the national anthem so long as it was not disruptive, but the university banned the five cheerleaders from the pregame routine, the outlet reported. 

The university ultimately allowed the cheerleaders to return to the field later in the season after receiving backlash for its ban.

In May, WXIA reported, four of the five cheerleaders who knelt were not invited back to the team. 

When the station asked Kennesaw State officials about whether the move was a case of discrimination or steep competition, the university responded that its cheerleading team was more competitive than ever. 

The university said it had 61 applicants try out for the squad last year and received more than 95 applicants for the team this year. There are only 52 spots available on their cheerleading roster.

The school added that, of the 33 cheerleaders who didn’t make this year’s team, seven were on the team last year. 

But Dean contends that discrimination played a role in the decision not to bring back her and her fellow cheerleaders who knelt during the anthem last year.

“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 said. “I know the people who made it. I know their skills and I know my skills,” Dean said. “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.”

On-field demonstrations began in 2016 with former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, who gained notoriety after he kneeled during the national anthem to protest the treatment of people of color in the U.S.

Several Kennesaw State cheerleaders also took a knee during the national anthem in October 2017.

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