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Viral video of cheerleaders' national anthem protest prompts Pa. school to cancel homecoming

An Allegheny County high school rescheduled its homecoming football game and banned all students from the event after a viral video of cheerleaders protesting at a previous game sparked fears of protests.

The high school also postponed all homecoming activities this weekend after a video compilation of the cheerleaders’ Sept. 30 protest, made by a conservative “news personality,” prompted more than 600 angry phone calls to the district and death threats against the superintendent and his family, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The video has been viewed 7.5 million times.

Thirteen Cornell High School cheerleaders took a knee during the national anthem Sept. 30 in front of military veterans serving as color guard. 

The video compilation showed teary-eyed veterans and alleged that the superintendent of the 650-student school district knew the girls were going to protest and invited members of the local VFW to serve as color guard at the game anyway. But Superintendent Aaron Thomas insists he did not know about the planned protest, where 13 out of 15 cheerleaders knelt during the national anthem, according to the Post-Gazette.

“Please know that I did not intentionally invite our veterans, gentlemen that I respect and admire immensely, to our football game to be protested in front of,” Thomas wrote in a statement posted to the district website.

Because of concerns about violence or protests, the school district moved Friday’s game to the afternoon and banned everyone but parents of the players from watching the game, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The incident has “ripped apart” the community, Thomas told the newspaper.

The district recently posted this statement on its website:

“The past week and a half has been a very difficult and turbulent time for the Cornell School District. We have experienced a conflict and controversy that has challenged us in ways we didn’t think were possible prior to this. With that being said, we are ready to move on. Members of the Cornell School District were able to meet with the veterans of the local VFW Post 402 where a great discussion occurred. The District was able to relay their apology to the veterans and discuss ways to move forward. All were in agreement and are looking forward to expanding the relationship with the VFW and the Cornell School District. These brave men have many experiences, lessons and messages they are willing to share with our future generations and we will be promoting that. The district has received numerous messages from across the country expressing their displeasure, unfortunately based on inaccuracies from social media. Regardless, we are looking to move on. It is time to move past the displeasure and anger, and discuss healing and community building. Looking forward to moving on!”

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