Tommia Dean, a former cheerleader at Kennesaw State University, is suing the university for violating her right to freedom of speech. Last season Dean knelt during the playing of the national anthem to protest police brutality directed against African Americans. Dean is accusing two elected officials, Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren and state representative Earl Ehrhart, of conspiring to keep her and the other cheerleaders off the field during the national anthem. She claims that the two White men wanted to stop her and four other African American cheerleaders from protesting because of their race.
In the complaint filed in the case, Dean’s attorneys write “Ehrhart and Warren used their power and influence to create a threatening atmosphere for any groups daring to exercise the privileges and immunities guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.”
The suit’s other defendants are former Kennesaw State president, Sam Olens, and two athletic department administrators. President Olens ended up resigning from his position due at least in part to complaints about how he handled the situation with Dean and the other cheerleaders.
According to Dean, she has suffered migraine headaches and emotional distress from the ordeal and is seeking monetary damages. She is not on the cheerleading squad this year and only one of the other four cheerleaders who knelt during the anthem was selected to be a part of this year’s team.