College Cheerleader, Webster Native Suspended for Election Night Tweets Speaks Out
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- It was a dream for 18-year-old Brynn Baker to cheer at the University of Louisville.
"I dedicated so much of my life to cheerleading. That was the school for me," Brynn said.
She was thrilled when she made it on the squad her freshman year. She started out leading the routine college life of an athlete – classes, practice games – until Election Night rolled around.
Brynn is a Donald Trump supporter and not shy about expressing that on her many social media accounts.
"I was watching election night," Brynn said. "He was winning the key states that nobody thought he was and I was celebrating for sure."
Two tweets, she says written in the heat of the moment, changed everything:
"You all want sympathy so bad lmaooooo stfu about racism, sexism, whateverism. Literally just stfu and find the $ to leave America then"
In another tweet to an African-American student:
"Kyah take a pill yo. You're so pressed for nothing lmao. You act like you came off a boat"
Brynn says the twitter response was immediate.
"I was politically tweeting and I had an unpopular opinion and people didn't like it and I had to deal with the repercussions of that," Brynn said. "It was free speech that I didn't think were going to have the consequences that it did."
Some of those consequences came from the University of Louisville itself. Brynn says she learned from a local Kentucky news report that she had been suspended. The report had her name, her picture and information that the cheerleading coach had confirmed the tweets were Brynn's.
Brynn says her tweets were reported out of context.
"In the sport of cheerleading, you're exposed to so many different types of people; of gender, sexual orientation, of race, you couldn't possibly do what I did for so long if you were racist, if you were xenophobic, if you felt that way," Brynn said.
Did she regret clicking send?
"I regret tweeting them, absolutely, but I don't regret speaking out," she said.
Brynn says she was placed under investigative suspension while the Student Code of Conduct committee and Athletics Department investigated her. She says she was banned from using any athletic amenities like the dining hall for athletes and could not attend practice or games. She says the school also suggested since so many threatening tweets came from fellow students, that for her personal safety, she not be on campus.
"'You better hope I don't see you on campus,'" Brynn said of the threats directed at her. "'You better know some sort of self defense.' 'Just wait until I see you and I'm going to beat you up.' I just don't now how you can be so emotionally attached to the politics of it, because that's what it is, politics."
Brynn came home to Rochester for two weeks. She eventually went back to at least begin to attend classes.
About a month after this all happened, the university sent a statement saying:
"The University of Louisville has completed the investigation into matters surrounding social media posts made by members of the University of Louisville spirit groups and determined those involved were not responsible for violations of the Student Code of Conduct. All members of the spirit groups involved have returned to practice with the team."
The university statement cleared Brynn, but she and her attorneys say it's not nearly enough.
"She didn't encourage violence. She didn't espouse harm to anybody else. She engaged in political speech," Brynn's attorney Jim Doyle said. "She has a right to an opinion and she has the right to express that opinion. You would think that would be encouraged in an academic environment. Her name should never have gone out and this whole thing in morphing into a viral media phenomenon should have never occurred. Brynn should've been protected. She deserved better. The university owed her that."
University of Louisville officials did not immediately return a request for comment beyond the statement provided.
Brynn says she never thought about switching schools or dropping out. She wants others to learn from her story.
"I don't want other people who have the same opinion as me to be afraid to share that and to let them to know that what happened it shouldn't have happened," she said.