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KSU Mascot Joins Student Protest Over Anthem Kneeling

At Kennesaw State University, about 200 students, who were joined by the school’s mascot Scrappy the Owl, gathered Monday to support a group of cheerleaders who protested racial injustice at a recent football game.
Credit Lisa Hagen / WABE

About 200 students gathered Monday at Kennesaw State University to support a group of cheerleaders who protested racial injustice at a game last month.

They were joined by university mascot Scrappy the Owl on the school green.

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The students came to express outrage at the school’s policy change after the cheerleaders — now being referred to as the “Kennesaw Five” — knelt during the national anthem at a football game last month.

Kennesaw State University students also came together Monday to express outrage at the school’s policy change. Now, no cheerleaders are allowed on the field until after the game starts. Student organizer David Corinthian said protesting racism shouldn’t be confused with disrespect for the military or the flag. Credit: Lisa Hagen/WABE

The new rule is: no cheerleaders on the field until after the game starts.

The school denies the change has anything to do with the demonstration.

Aleaka Cooper is one of many students who are skeptical.

“I don’t buy that at all because all of a sudden, after they take a knee, now they can’t be seen on the field,” Cooper said.

She and others say they’ve spoken with school football players who fear losing their scholarships if they were to join the cheerleaders in kneeling.

Nursing student Kenneth Sturkey spoke from inside the owl mascot costume.

“If standing up for injustice and inequality is something that is going to upset the athletic department and that may cost me my job, then that’s perfectly fine by me.”

Sturkey said he thought it was important for the students to see an icon of the school with them.

The school told WABE no scholarships are in jeopardy.

Not all students are on board with the cheerleaders’ actions.

“I’m a person of color. I agree there is racial injustice, but don’t do it this way. This is stupid. It’s just going to divide the country even more,” said Cameron Johnson, a senior accounting major.

He said he thinks protesting at police stations would be a more relevant tactic than kneeling during the anthem.

Student organizer David Corinthian told the crowd Monday that protesting racism shouldn’t be confused with disrespect for the military or the flag.

“Silence is killing a lot of black people in America, and today we’re here showing people that we’re sick of it,” Corinthian said.

The students say they’ll keep protesting.