KENNESAW, Ga. - The Kennesaw State University controversy over cheerleaders taking a knee during the national anthem is back in the headlines because of some eye-opening text messages between two elected officials from Cobb County.
KSU President Sam Olens said it was the athletic director's decision to tunnel the cheerleaders during the national anthem at future games, but phone text messages between the Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren and State Representative Earl Ehrhart appear to tell a different story.
FOX 5 obtained phone texts between Ehrhart and Warren.
In one text, Ehrhart asked Warren "Are you as furious at Sam Olens and KSU as I am about cheerleaders kneeling? Sam is coddling them. "
Sheriff Warren responds “yes” and said he had a conversation with the KSU president.
"He assured me that the cheerleaders will not be on the field until the players come on the field after the national anthem,” Warren wrote.
The sheriff went on to say to Ehrhart, "Thanks for always standing up to these liberals that hate the USA."
On Wednesday, we talked to a student on campus who said the cheerleaders were expressing their constitutional rights and should not have been banished to the tunnel by the athletic director or anyone else.
"I think the constitution applies everywhere and the constitution says you have a freedom of speech. They didn't vocalize it. All they did was kneel. I don't see the problem with it," said sophomore Jasmin Lopez.
Ehrhart's text indicates the Cobb County officials pressured president Olens to keep the cheerleaders in the tunnel during the anthem. It read, "He had to be dragged there but with you and I pushing he had no choice. Thanks for your patriotism my friend."
FOX 5 News spoke to a veteran near the KSU campus who said the school and the Cobb County officials did the right thing.
"I want them to respect the flag and the national, they can protest about things but don't do it during the national anthem," said Navy veteran Billy Stults.
Olens released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:
“Following the September 30 football game, the Department of Athletics leadership informed me that they were making a change to the pregame activities, which involved the spirit squad. This was the only conversation I had about any changes involving the cheerleaders and mascot. The call I received from Sheriff Warren came after I was notified of the department’s decision.
“In hindsight, I regret how the events over the past two weeks have unfolded and admit that the circumstances could have been handled better. I believe that a university should be a marketplace of ideas, encouraging free expression and open dialogue. To that end, I welcome the opportunity to meet with the cheerleaders and any student who wishes to participate in a discussion about how we can work together to continue to make KSU a university of which we are all proud.”
Olens, the former Georgia Attorney General and former chairman of the Cobb County Board of Commissioners. will be formally vested as the fourth president of Kennesaw State University on Thursday.