East Carolina University found itself continuing to deal with the ramifications Tuesday of a protest last Saturday during which 19 members of its marching band took a knee while the national anthem was played at a home football game. The action follows the lead of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is protesting racial injustice and police brutality in the United States.
After Chancellor Cecil Staton initially said the university supported the students’ right to free speech, the university issued a statement Tuesday saying future protests would not be tolerated on the field. The protest had been booed by many fans at the stadium in Greenville, N.C., which is a little more than 100 miles from the U.S. Army’s Fort Bragg ― the world’s largest military installation.
“We regret the actions taken by 19 members of the East Carolina University Marching Pirates on game day October 1st felt hurtful to many in our Pirate family and disrespectful to our country,” the statement read. “We understand and respect this is an issue where emotions are strong.”
In addition, an ESPN radio affiliate in Fayetteville, N.C., (WFAY) announced that it would not be broadcasting East Carolina’s football game this coming weekend against the University of South Florida. Colonial Radio Group President and CEO Jeff Andrulonis said while his is a small station in a small market, the market includes Fort Bragg, and he said it is important to stand for the national anthem to show respect for the military. He said his sponsors agree with the station’s move, but that it will cost him “in the thousands of dollars” in lost advertising revenue.
Andrulonis said he believes the students “absolutely have the right to protest,” but added that “the appropriate way for them to do that would have been to protest before the game, not show up to the game.”
Contributing: Associated Press