On Saturday, Sept. 30, Kennesaw State’s football team defeated North Greenville University, 38-34, to improve its record to 3-1.
However, the game wasn’t what most people were talking about as they left Fifth Third Bank Stadium because it was the cheerleaders, not the team, that would wind up making national news.
Five black Kennesaw State cheerleaders took a knee during the national anthem, which led to the entire team being off the field for its Oct. 7 game against Texas Southern.
Ironically, Texas Southern is a Historically Black College & University.
"We didn’t expect it to get as big as what it did, but we definitely knew that it was going to be something that got attention. And we wanted that attention to make sure we made our statement, and that our voices were heard," Shlondra Young told WSBTV in Atlanta.
The "Kennesaw Five," as they have been dubbed, said they kneeled to bring light to social injustices and police brutality.
Whenever a person of color kneels, the reason behind it seems to always get conveniently ignored. And this time, it came from a high-ranking Georgia law enforcement official.
"My wife, Penny, 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," said Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren to the Marietta Daily Journal.
"Cobb County has lost sons and daughters at home and on foreign lands while protecting America," he said. "And to witness these ill-informed students acting this way clearly tells me KSU needs to get busy educating these students on more than just passing their classes. They need to learn all that the flag truly represents."
Warren called the cheerleaders ill-informed, but I wonder what the families of Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, and Alton Sterling would say to him.
Mind you, Cobb County is the same place in which a video was released in September of an incident in which former Cobb County Lt. Greg Abbott was caught on tape reassuring a frightened woman that she need not be afraid as he told her that "We only kill black people," as she was reluctant to reach for her phone during a traffic stop.
"But you’re not black," Abbott said. "Remember, we only shoot black people. Yeah. We only kill black people, right? All the videos you’ve seen, have you seen the black people get killed?"
The footage was from 2016, and according to the time stamp, happened only days after Castile was killed by police in Minnesota.
What Colin Kaepernick started last year has been elevated to a new level, and has crossed over into different sports. Teams like the Indiana Fever in the WNBA have kneeled before games, while the Los Angeles Sparks stayed in the locker room for the anthem throughout this year’s WNBA Finals. Women’s soccer player Megan Rapinoe became the first white pro athlete to kneel during the anthem, which led to the U.S. Soccer Federation passing a policy that requires all players and staff to stand during anthems.
Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell made headlines last month when he became the first player in Major League Baseball to take a knee. The NFL is currently scrambling to come up with some kind of middle ground, as Donald Trump is putting heat on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and owners to ban anthem protests. And everyone will be watching to see if anyone challenges the rules next week by kneeling when the NBA season tips off.
The protests have even spilled over to a predominately white sport like hockey. J.T. Brown is one of the few black players in the NHL, and last Saturday he became the first player to be involved in any kind of protest when he raised his fist in the Black Power symbol during the national anthem.
"The Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate the moment before every game when we can unite as a community, paying homage to a flag that is representative of our nation and those who have sacrificed," said team officials in a statement.
"At the same time, we respect our players and individual choices they may make on social and political issues."
Off all the sports leagues, who would have thought that an NHL franchise would be the only one in professional sports that is respecting its player’s rights, while also being compassionate and understanding to the reasons behind the protest?
Unfortunately, that same compassion and willingness to listen isn’t being conveyed across the country.
Last month in Texas, two black high school football players were kicked off their team for kneeling and raising their fists during the anthem. The cousins were forced to take off their uniforms in front of the team by their coach as they were being dismissed.
The boys played for Victory & Praise Christian Academy, a private and religious worship school.
Apparently, Southern Christianity doesn’t care for peaceful protests.
"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Luke 23:34.
This past week, Gyree Durante was kicked off his Division III football team at Albright College in Pennsylvania for kneeling. The backup quarterback decided to kneel after the team had originally voted to kneel during the coin toss while standing for the anthem.
And in Los Angeles, footage was recently released of two Laker fans that had drinks thrown on them because they decided to kneel at their seats.
Some will tell you that this whole kneeling controversy has gotten out of hand. They will point to things said by the president, or how the action has turned into a gimmick for some.
But in actuality, it’s nothing more than another example of how the voices and actions of black and brown people are purposely ignored and discredited.
White feelings aren’t more important than black and brown lives.
If Black America had a choice, we’d rather deal with the uncomforting feeling of watching "the flag get disrespected," instead of waking up to another hashtag of a person who shares our skin color killed by police.
But we don’t have the luxury.
So, until that day, we’re going to keep kneeling.
And if you want us to stand, the answer is quite simple.
Stop being racist.