Tommia Dean, a Kennesaw State University cheerleader, took a knee on the football field last year but the silent protest against racism and police brutality got her kicked off the team, a new lawsuit claims.
After Dean didn’t make the cheerleading squad this year, she filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging that the school retaliated and conspired to penalize her for protesting, WSBTV reports.
Dean was one of five cheerleaders who made headlines last year when they knelt during the national anthem at a Kennesaw State University’s home football game. The incident that took place Sept. 30 prompted the school to ban cheerleaders from pre-game activities. Later, the school reversed that decision.
In the lawsuit, Dean accused two elected officials, Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren and Republican state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, of discriminating against her because she’s Black.
The lawsuit also names former university President Sam Olens and two athletic department officials, Matt Griffin and Scott Whitlock.
The University System of Georgia led an investigation after the fallout and ruled that Kennesaw State administrators failed to follow the school’s own guidance that stipulates that student protests against the anthem amount to constitutionally protected free speech.
Dean, who was not asked to return, told WXIA that applying to the squad had become more competitive, but she believes that taking a knee is what caused her to be cut.
“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,” she said.
New president Pamela Whitten, hired in June, told the Journal-Constitution she would be willing to meet with the cheerleaders and students who were involved in the protests.