Cheerleaders from Kennesaw State University were noticeably absent from the field at Saturday night’s pre-game activities.
The week prior, on Sept. 30, the cheerleaders had been on the field pre-game when some members of the squad opted to take a knee during the national anthem.
School officials said the change had nothing to do with the protest, but as the AJC reported last week, State Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, said that KSU President Sam Olens would likely keep the squad off the field. There were also reports that Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren was noting which cheerleaders were kneeling during the game.
These were not the first cheerleaders to take a knee in what has become a widespread form of protest in football stadiums nationwide, but while some high school and college cheerleaders have made the choice to participate, the same can’t be said of their professional counterparts.
Not a single NFL cheerleader has taken a knee during the national anthem.
Regardless of how they may personally feel, the risks, said many, are just too great.
For a story on the topic, Elle.com attempted to interview more than 50 NFL cheerleaders, team captains and cheerleader coordinators. All of them either declined to be interviewed or never responded to the request. Instead, the story quotes former NFL cheerleaders, both on and off the record, and not one of them said they would have participated in the protest.
To do so would run against the culture of cheering, said the story.
Cheerleaders are expected to be fun, bubbly and positive, not Debbie Down-On-One-Knee.
The former cheerleaders expressed sentiments ranging from feeling that protesting is not part of their job and would take the spotlight away from players to one cheerleader of color who said she would feel uncomfortable kneeling in front of a mostly white squad and mostly white audience.
To put it plainly, NFL cheerleaders (who barely make minimum wage and receive no health benefits) are far more disposable than the multi-million dollar athletes and team owners who are doing the protesting. Former cheerleaders said it makes sense that the women on the field would fear for their jobs.
“I’m not shocked that they are not protesting,” said one former cheerleader to ELLE.com. “It’s not that we women don’t have an opinion; we have opinions. Many of us have other jobs while we are cheering, there are doctors and politicians out there on the field. We do this because we love to dance, and our job as cheerleaders isn’t to create controversy. It’s to make everyone happy.”