The practice of kneeling for the national anthem is spreading at state colleges

[private]The national-anthem-kneeling controversy is starting to spread at Georgia’s public colleges.

The latest institution to see cheerleaders and athletes take a knee in silent protest during the national anthem is the College of Coastal Georgia in Brunswick.

As reported in the Brunswick News:

College of Coastal Georgia basketball players continued their protest Wednesday by kneeling during the national anthem.

Several women’s basketball players kneeled during the anthem, and the entire men’s team on the court kneeled before their game.

Both teams played Middle Georgia State College at home Wednesday night.

The teams first kneeled during the national anthem before a game Nov. 1. The players have said they are kneeling to protest racial inequality and police brutality in America.

“We are protesting the inequality in America,” said Brandon Martin, a senior player on the men’s team during an open forum discussion hosted by the college Tuesday.

The Coastal College students continued the controversy that first sprang up at Kennesaw State University in Cobb County, where five African-American cheerleaders kneeled during the national anthem at a football game in September.

KSU President Sam Olens, who apparently bowed to political pressure from state Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) and Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren, had the cheerleaders kept off the football field for a few games during the period when the national anthem was being played.

But Olens, who was once the state’s chief law enforcement officer as attorney general, has rescinded that order and grudgingly acknowledged that persons do have a First Amendment right to kneel during the anthem.

“While I believe there are more effective ways to initiate an exchange of ideas on issues of national concern, the right to exercise one’s freedom of speech under the First Amendment must be protected,” Olens wrote in a letter to students and faculty.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Russ Willard wrote a letter in response to questions from the University System’s legal counsel, Kimberly Ballard-Washington, about the anthem-kneeling activities and whether they could be prohibited.

“My analysis of First Amendment caselaw is that neither a USG institution or employee nor an affiliated entity to whom the USG member has ceded certain authority in the conduct of its athletic endeavors [an athletic association] may impose discipline for expressive conduct during the playing of the national anthem,” Willard wrote.

“Further, I believe that those entities are prohibited from adopting a policy compelling or prohibiting specific conduct by a student athlete or student associated with the intercollegiate sporting event during the playing of the national anthem,” Willard added.

Taking such an action, he warned, “would be prohibited viewpoint discrimination.”

Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican candidate for governor, has now entered the fray with an odd statement that just because cheerleaders and athletes have constitutional rights doesn’t mean they should actually exercise those rights.

“Just because you have the right to protest, doesn’t make it right,” Kemp said in a statement released Thursday. “I support the First Amendment Rights of all Georgians but wholeheartedly believe that kneeling during the singing of our National Anthem is insulting to the men and women who have fought and died to protect our freedom and way of life.”

Kemp would have no power to order cheerleaders to stand for the anthem, but said, “As Georgia’s next governor, I will always stand to express my gratitude to our active duty military, veterans, wounded warriors, and fallen heroes.”

© 2017 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Georgia colleges , national anthem protests , Sam Olens , University System