The Kennesaw State University community in Georgia is having a divisive debate after five football cheerleaders kneeling during the national anthem on Sept. 30, in solidarity with NFL players who are bringing awareness to racial injustice.
According to The New York Times, cheerleaders at Howard University began kneeling during the anthem since September 2016, when quarter Colin Kaepernick launched his controversial protest. Unlike the Kennesaw cheerleaders, there’s been no drama at the historically Black institution.
In fact, since the 1980s Howard University has played the Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” at home games immediately before “The Star-Spangled Banner.” As The Times also noted, it’s not unusual to see raised fists in the crowd and on the field during the Black national anthem—which predates the national anthem.
“I think about liberty and justice for all, and how it’s not being executed in our country right now,” cheerleader squad captain Sydney Stallworth told The Times, reflecting on the national anthem.
Stallworth added that she feels “lucky” to be enrolled at an HBCU where she has a platform to express her views about racism and inequality.
Meanwhile, at Kennesaw State University, the turmoil continues. According to the AJC, Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren expressed his disapproval with the university’s president, Sam Olens. After Warren weighed in, the university’s athletic department stopped allowing the cheerleaders on the field during the anthem.
Not everyone at Howard agrees with the anthem protest, but disapproval is muted.
Howard’s cheerleaders coach, Demarco Brooks, told The Times that kneeling during the anthem would not be his “first choice” to protest racial injustice. However, he’s respects the cheerleaders’ rights.