A Fayetteville radio station is refusing to air East Carolina University’s upcoming football game because of last Saturday’s protest by band members during the National Anthem.
ESPN Fayetteville CEO Jeff Andrulonis called the protest by more than a dozen ECU band members “shameful” and said he wanted to “protest the protest,” by not airing this weekend’s game between the Pirates and the University of South Florida, which is being played in Tampa. Advertisers feel the same way, he said in a post on the station’s Facebook page. The station, part of Colonial Media and Entertainment, broadcasts the ECU games at 100.1FM and ESPNFayetteville.com.
“Every sponsor I’ve talked to agrees that last weekend’s spectacle at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium was shameful and a message needs to be sent,” Andrulonis said in the message.
He added: “The band members could have quietly protested in the early morning hours before the game. But that would have required them to wake up early. So instead they chose to make a spectacle of themselves in front of the big crowd at Dowdy-Ficklen. They’re college students and it’s about time they get an education on the concept that their actions have consequences.”
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At the Oct. 1 game against University of Central Florida, 19 members of the band knelt during the band’s performance of the National Anthem, like the protests against police shootings of African Americans by San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick. His protests have led to a wave of demonstrations at professional and college games across the country.
On Saturday, ECU’s new chancellor, Cecil Staton, issued a statement saying the university respects students’ rights to express their personal views. “East Carolina will safeguard the right to free speech, petition and peaceful assembly as assured by the U.S. Constitution,” his statement said.
On Monday, three ECU officials, including Band Director William Staub, seemed to change course, saying officials had met with the band and that “protests of this nature by the Marching Pirates will not be tolerated moving forward.”
Andrulonis said after “taking a knee” during this weekend’s game, his station would resume its broadcasts of Pirate football games on Oct. 13.