AS THE NATIONAL ANTHEM began to play during last week’s football game at Kennesaw State University, Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren said he couldn’t believe his eyes.
Several Owl cheerleaders on the field “took a knee.”
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling at NFL games during the “The Star-Spangled Banner” last season as a way to protest racial injustice. The controversial practice has since been embraced by some players and the debate rekindled when President Donald Trump said pro players that took a knee should be fired.
“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,” Warren said.
Warren said the cheerleaders were taking a knee “on the very soil that men and women have died overseas to protect.”
“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.”
The sheriff said he and his wife have been supporters of KSU for years, both in the community and through a public safety education endowment. He has also known and respected KSU President Sam Olens since his days on the county commission.
“During a recent conversation, Sam assured me that this will not happen again,” Warren said. “I hope he is right because I stand with America, I stand to show respect to our military and all those that serve in public safety. Hopefully this Saturday, Penny and I can get back to enjoying our season tickets and support the many great things happening at KSU.”
State Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, said his phone began to blow up from upset constituents as word about the kneeling cheerleaders spread.
Ehrhart chairs the committee in charge of funding Georgia’s public universities.
“The bottom line for me in all of this is if you’re on an athletic team, I don’t care what political statement you’re making, even if it’s repugnant and hateful like the ones those cheerleaders made. Play football. Cheer. Play in the band. If you want to make a political statement, do it in the middle of the public quad and that’s your right in this country.”
The lawmaker said there’s a school of thought he plans to press if the matter is not resolved: While some say the practice is covered under the First Amendment, consider if you’re the team quarterback preparing to pass the ball. But instead of passing, “You say, ‘Oh no, I need to make a political statement. I need to kneel.’ And then he gets slaughtered by the opposing team. What do you think the coach is going to do? Pull him out of the game,” Ehrhart said.
Yet Ehrhart said Attorney General Chris Carr and Olens have been helpful in the situation and he believes the behavior will not occur at KSU again.
“If you insist on political statements, just stay in the locker room until after the anthem is over. I suspect (that directive) will come from the athletic department to the coaches to the team from the president,” Ehrhart said.
AT has calls in to KSU about the matter.
POLITICAL PLATTER: Hear from the candidates vying for the District 6 seat in the Georgia Senate at a candidate forum at 6:30 p.m. Monday in Vinings.
The forum, organized by the Vinings Village Civic Club, will be held at the Cochise Club, 3795 Cochise Drive.
For more information, email Barbara Limardo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Last week, AT learned that instead of canceling a $696,539 payment to a San Francisco-based consultant to review the county’s transit service as he pledged to do in August, Cobb Commission Chairman Mike Boyce ended up signing the contract.
The chairman explained his reasoning in an email to AT:
“You are correct in that I did ask the county manager to review the possibility of canceling the contract. But the county attorney informed me that I had to sign the contract because the board had passed it. The only way to cancel it was by board action.
“Once I signed it, what I have been doing is working with the County manager and Commissioner (Bob) Ott … to look for ways that we can use the existing contract to review current routes to make them more efficient and to have the study done cheapest. We are still in the early stages of that.
“Regardless, the study is needed. It was a major issue during the town halls, and I tried to find a way to respond to those concerns. But I, as Chairman, do not have the authority to abrogate a contract approved by the Board. Moreover, there was not unanimity in my desire to cancel the contract.
“In short, any effort to cancel the contract would have brought problems of their own, and I decided to move on and make the best of what we had.”
Boyce ends his email by saying transit will undoubtedly be a major topic at the board retreat later this month.