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Taxpayers on the Hook for Thousands After Anthem-Protesting Cheerleader Settles with School

A former Kennesaw State University cheerleader who knelt during a national anthem in a 2017 protest is now richer for the experience.

Tommia Dean had sued in 2018 because she and four other cheerleaders who protested were ordered off the field and kept out of two games following their initial protest that sought to emulate the protest tactic of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, according to WKYC.

The cheerleaders were allowed to perform again after Georgia’s University System ruled that the protests were protected by the First Amendment, WKYC reported.

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The suit has now been settled to the tune of $145,000, the Marietta Daily Journal reported. The agreement was reached last month, and shared with the newspaper through an Open Records Act request.

“A compromise has been reached,” the agreement stated, according to the newspaper.

“The intent of this agreement is to buy peace of mind from future controversy and forestall further attorney’s fees, costs, or other expenses of litigation, and further that this agreement represents the compromise, economic resolution of disputed claims and, as such, shall not be deemed in any manner an admission, finding, conclusion, evidence or indication for any purposes whatsoever, that the KSU defendants acted contrary to the law or otherwise violated the rights of Dean,” the agreement said, according to the paper.

The Georgia Department of Administrative Services will pay $93,000 to Dean, and $52,000 to her attorneys, according to the agreement.

Targets of Dean’s original lawsuit, filed in September 2018, according to The New York Times, included former Kennesaw State University President Sam Olens along with Cobb County Sheriff Neal Warren and former state Rep. Earl Ehrhart. It accused the latter two of pressuring Olens to punish the cheerleaders.

Dean’s complaint said Warren and Ehrhart were racially motivated in their actions and that she suffered emotional distress.

In February, a federal judge dismissed the two men as defendants.

“The courts and Judge Batten have thrown out the meritless, politically motivated lawsuit against me and justice has prevailed. My counsel crushed the political hack attorneys hired by the KSU cheerleader to perpetrate this fraud and character assassination,” Erhart said at that time, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.

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Dean’s lawyers have appealed that ruling in respect to Warren.

Is kneeling during the national anthem ever appropriate?

“The appeal is important because it calls into question when private parties can be liable under the civil rights laws of causing a public official or conspiring with a public official to violate a citizen’s First Amendment rights,” Bruce Brown, one of Dean’s attorneys, said, according to The New York Times.

Brown said that his client’s suit to defend her protest sent an important message.

“Kneeling during the national anthem is respectful and a completely appropriate protest that should be protected by the university under the First Amendment. It should not be prohibited or punished, ever,” he said.

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