Kennesaw State cheerleader punished for taking knee wins $145K settlement

Tommia Dean (center) is suing Keenesaw State University for allegedly violating her right to protest (ABC News)

A Georgia college cheerleader that was inspired by Colin Kapernick has won a $145,000 settlement against Kennesaw State University after they tried to punish her.

Tommia Dean and four other cheerleaders made national headlines during a December 2017 football game when they decided to take a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racism. Dean signed the settlement agreement in October, almost two years after the protest.

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“Before we went out on the field, we all prayed,” Dean told 11 Alive in Atlanta back in December 2017. “Together, we all prayed. I felt like this was something I needed to do here, in Cobb County, as a Kennesaw State cheerleader.”

Following their protests, Dean and the other cheerleaders, whom were dubbed the Kennesaw Five, were prohibited from coming onto the field until after the anthem at the next game prompting outrage by their supporters. According to the Huffington Post, two months later, officials of the state university system concluded that the women had a constitutional right to protest and that Kennesaw should not have interfered unless their actions caused a disruption, but the drama did not end there.

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The Huffington Post reported that Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren publicly scrutinized the cheerleaders saying that his wife had “tears in her eyes, and we were both shocked to see such a lack of respect for our flag, our national anthem and the men and women that serve our nation.” It was also found out that Warren bragged through text messages that he pressured Kennesaw’s president Sam Olens to punish the cheerleaders. Olens would later resign.

Though the lawsuit originally named Warren and a former state lawmaker in addition to the college, the pair was removed after a judge ruled earlier this year that Dean did not prove “racial animus” by them. Dean’s attorneys are appealing this decision.