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Five cheerleaders knelt for the national anthem, 4 got cut from the squad. Here’s the rest of the story.

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Four of five Kennesaw State cheerleaders who took a knee during the national anthem last year were cut from this year’s roster purportedly because of their lack of skill. But according to them and their peers at Georgia University, that’s not the real reason they were let go.

“[I know] it played a role, just because I know my skills, and I had the skills two years prior to that,” one of the former KSU cheerleaders said to local station WXIA.

Their peers at the school agreed.

“Why can’t they make the cheerleading team if they are fit,” one student rhetorically asked.”They’re perfect individuals for the team. Why can’t they do it?”

“I think they’re just saying that as an excuse for kneeling,” another student said.

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Listen to their complaints below:

Were they right? It depends on who you ask.

“Similar to all KSU sports teams, multi-year spots on rosters are not guaranteed, and all student-athletes must earn their position on a team,” KSU’s athletics department said in a statement cited by the school’s student newspaper, The Sentinel.

The statement noted that 33 prospective cheerleaders failed to make this year’s squad, including seven from last year. Keep in mind that of the five cheerleaders who took a knee during the anthem, one made it onto the team. These facts suggest the cut had nothing to do with their prior behavior.

The five first acquired the spotlight — the national spotlight, in fact — last October when, following the lead set by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, they took a knee during a homecoming game. In the process they wound up angering a lot of people, including their local sheriff.

Watch their protest below if you can stomach it:

Then-KSU president Sam Olens reportedly wound up resigning shortly afterward because of attempts by him to prevent further protests like this from occurring.

When asked how the school will respond if protests break out again this year, current president Pamela Whitten said that while the university encourages all students to stand for the national anthem, it’ll respect its students’ rights.

“While we respect the First Amendment rights of individuals, it is the University of System of Georgia’s belief that everyone should stand to honor the National Anthem,” she said.

“However, the Office of the Attorney General of Georgia has advised that the First Amendment protects students who kneel or sit during the National Anthem. Therefore, USG institutions cannot prohibit or interfere with those expressions.”

Speaking with local media last year, the five cheerleaders claimed that they hadn’t been trying to disrespect the national anthem but rather bring attention to certain issues:

“It was nothing that was meant to disrespect America, which is a reason why when we took the knee,, we still made it a point to have our hands on our heart,” one of them said. “We just wanted to take the knee in the name of equality.”

It’s unclear if she had meant equality of opportunity or equality of outcome. Judging by the complaints over this year’s cuts, it seems like she had meant the latter.

Vivek Saxena

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