Four Black former cheerleaders at Kennesaw State University were not asked to remain on the squad this season. While the school maintains their decision was skills-based, several of the cheerleaders believe it was because they knelt during the national anthem last season.
During the start of a Sept. 30 KSU home football game, five cheerleaders knelt during the pre-game playing of the national anthem. Their action was met by controversy and debates on social media.
The girls were both criticized and supported by fans of the school. Although Georgia's attorney general offered an opinion that said students at a public university could kneel, as long as it was not disruptive, KSU banned the five cheerleaders from the pre-game routine.
This action did not last long due to an overwhelming amount of backlash. Eventually, KSU allowed the cheerleaders back on the field for the anthem.
The cheerleaders may have thought everything was in the past; however, they were shocked when four of the five kneeling cheerleaders were cut from the squad in May.
KSU told local news station WXIA-TV that the competition to make the cheer squad was tougher than ever this year. The school said it had just 61 applicants for the squad in 2017, but this year, they had over 95 applicants with only 52 available spots. Seven of the 33 prospective cheerleaders who did not make this year's squad were on the team last year.
While the school blames more competition, one of the "Kennesaw 5 Cheerleaders" who didn't make the squad believes the kneeling was to blame.
"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," Toomia Dean told WXIA. "I know the people who made it. I know their skills and I know my skills. 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."