GREENVILLE, NC (WITN) - National attention has been placed on Eastern Carolina after 19 members of ECU's band decided to take a knee during the national anthem during the game on October 1st.
Thursday, the governor weighed in and ECU's chancellor also issued another statement, as many in Pirate Nation want to open up a dialogue to understand both sides.
"So I'm asking everyone who is a part of East Carolina University — students, faculty, staff, administrators and our alumni and supporters — to join together in an effort to resolve our differences peacefully, respect the rights of others to express themselves peacefully, and work to find common ground that continues to strengthen ECU," Chancellor Cecil Staton wrote in the statement issued Thursday night.
He says while the school encourages students to have open dialog and debates, at the same time, he says the school recognizes its relationship with the military and respecting the men and women who have served.
Dr. Staton's full statement can be read below.
Days after the incident, students and community members are still divided.
"There were so many different feelings going on at once, especially when they were booing, it definitely split us to whether we should or whether we shouldn't," says Erin Bader, a freshman at ECU.
"I believe people should stand up for what they believe in, we as Americans have the right to do that type of thing, you know," says Miesha Meadows, a senior.
At a press conference in Kinston Thursday, Governor Pat McCrory gave his thoughts on the matter.
"I thought it was extremely inappropriate that they kneeled during the national anthem," he says. "They have every right to express their First Amendment rights."
The dialogue behind the scenes hit the airwaves Wednesday night as Jermaine McNair, the director the NC Civil, sat down with Pirate Radio Host Troy Dreyfus to begin what they call 'the healing process'.
"We live in these very tight echo chambers where we only hear the sound of our own voices and the sounds of the people closest to us who agree with us, and that's a tough place live in if you're going to grow and gain prospective, so we decided to do is open up our echo chambers and kind of cross pollinate our two cultures with very different audiences," McNair says.
"It's been a very divisive issue in the community and there are opinions on all sides, so we just try to bring everyone together, we don't have all the answers and surely we don't have all the solutions, but if we start a dialogue and bring different folks together," Dreyfus says.
WITN has asked to speak to band members about the true meaning of the protest, but we're told they're not allowed to talk further about this issue. The band's director has declined any on-camera interviews.
FULL STATEMENT FROM ECU CHANCELLOR CECIL STATON:
October 6, 2016
It is an honor and a privilege to serve as the chancellor of your university. This is a challenging, but wonderful time to lead ECU.
In the past week our campus has been experiencing — in a very public, yet also personal way — something that campuses and communities across our country are struggling with: balancing the desire of individuals and groups to express themselves, and the obligation we as a university have to provide a safe and secure environment for everyone on our campus. As your chancellor, I have the responsibility to hold these two priorities together, even when in tension.
To our students, let me be perfectly clear: you have the right to express yourselves peacefully and responsibly, and the right to expect to do so without fear of intimidation or violence. I will not tolerate the mistreatment of any student, and anyone who perpetrates such mistreatment will be dealt with swiftly.
However, when necessary, I will also ensure that public safety is preserved and maintained for the benefit of all who are a part of our campus. The university has a responsibility, if necessary, to place reasonable constraints on the time, the place and the manner of expression or conduct, but within those constraints, the university respects and will defend that right.
We are an imperfect campus in an imperfect society. We know we must work harder on issues of equality and social justice, and I am proud that we have many ways to facilitate discourse in an intelligent, safe and responsible manner. I applaud these efforts and stand with you in your efforts to effect meaningful change.
As a university, we respect the First Amendment, and we encourage the open, even passionate discourse of the issues that are important to our students and faculty. It is also important to acknowledge the deep relationship our university has with the military and the men and women who serve and have served. We share a mission of service, and each day on our campus we appreciate the people who live that mission. It is because of their commitment to our country that we as citizens have the right to express ourselves.
East Carolina has a long and very proud history of tackling some of our society's most challenging issues, from preparing doctors and dentists who practice in our state's underserved communities to preparing teachers who shape the future in hard-to-fill rural classrooms. Whether it is civil rights, women's issues, war and military actions, ECU has encouraged the members of our campus community to express their opinions and perspectives in an intelligent, responsible and peaceful way. After all, if these conversations can't happen on the campus of an American university, where can they?
Our students and faculty represent the best of what diversity — in terms of ethnic background, political affiliation, nationality, sexual identification — can bring to an institution of higher learning. We all benefit from the shared perspectives and experiences of others, whether we agree with them or not. A fundamental element of our core mission isto reflect a global workplace and society and to prepare students to succeed in varied and changing cultures.
Challenges will always be here. That's a good thing; they make us stronger and wiser. Whenever we are faced with challenges, we must come together, rationally, peacefully and thoughtfully, to work towards resolution and mutual respect. We will not always agree with one another – in fact, we shouldn't – but we must always be willing to come together, rise to be our best selves, and demonstrate what makes ECU the remarkable community we love.
So I'm asking everyone who is a part of East Carolina University — students, faculty, staff, administrators and our alumni and supporters — to join together in an effort to resolve our differences peacefully, respect the rights of others to express themselves peacefully, and work to find common ground that continues to strengthen ECU. We will continue to experience tension between the desire for expression and the obligation as a university to provide a safe and secure environment. Balancing that tension will continue to be an important part of our responsibility as we prepare our future leaders to embrace a complex and challenging world with dignity and integrity.
Governor Pat McCrory made his first public comments today about the ECU band protest.
The governor said he thought it was "extremely inappropriate" for 19 members of the university's marching band to kneel during the national anthem in protest.
Despite a statement from Chancellor Cecil Staton on Saturday supporting the students, ECU's band and School of Music officials said on Monday that additional protests would not be tolerated.
McCrory said while the band members have a right to protest outside or even in the stands, the governor feels on the football field they have no more rights "than you or me."
"I think people are coming there to see sports and entertainment, and that's what it should be used for. Just because you're a student on the field doesn't mean you have any more rights than anyone else," said McCrory.
Seven former presidents of ECU's Black Student Union say statements from the university's band and music school administrators are "deplorable."
On Saturday, 19 members of the marching band knelt during the national anthem as a silent protest against police violence across the country.
The director of Athletic Bands, the director of the School of Music, and the dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication released a joint statement on Monday saying additional protests by band members "would not be tolerated."
The former BSU presidents called for the administrators statement, along with one from Athletics Director Jeff Compher, to be retracted. They say the statements "stand in contrast to this university's strong history of student activism and in opposition to the position of the Chancellor."
On Saturday, Dr. Cecil Staton said civil discourse was an ECU value and part of the university's creed.
The former BSU presidents called the protest a bold exercise of band members freedom of speech and don't want ECU to "go back to the days where the black student's voice was marginalized".
In the meantime, a Fayetteville radio station says it will not air the upcoming Pirate game because of what it calls a "shameful disrespect" of the national anthem by the marching band.
Colonial Media and Entertainment says it will "take a knee" for this weekend's University of South Florida game in protest of the protest.
WFAY AM/FM says it plans to carry the remainder of the ECU schedule.
Top administrators with ECU's music department say additional protests by the university's marching band "will not be tolerated".
That came in a statement late Monday afternoon from the director of athletic bands, the director of the School of Music, and the dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication.
On Saturday during the ECU/University of Central Florida football game, 19 members of the Marching Pirates knelt in protest during the national anthem.
The three music school administrators say they have met with the band and members have reaffirmed their commitment and responsibility that comes with wearing the band uniforms.
"College is about learning, and it is our expectation that the members of the Marching Pirates will learn from this experience and fulfill their responsibilities," said the statement. "While we affirm the right of all our students to express their opinions, protests of this nature by the Marching Pirates will not be tolerated moving forward."
The statement differs from what the chancellor said on Saturday. Dr. Cecil Staton said civil discourse "is an East Carolina value and part of our ECU creed".
Statement in its entirety:
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. We understand and respect this is an issue where emotions are strong.
The Marching Pirates continue to be fully supportive of all the values the East Carolina University community holds dear.
We have met with the band and the members have collectively reaffirmed their commitment to the unique privilege and responsibility that comes with wearing the uniform of the Marching Pirates.
College is about learning, and it is our expectation that the members of the Marching Pirates will learn from this experience and fulfill their
responsibilities. While we affirm the right of all our students to express
their opinions, protests of this nature by the Marching Pirates will not be tolerated moving forward.
It is our hope that together we can move past these events and that the
Marching Pirates will be part of the healing process, working as one Pirate Nation.
Dr. William Staub
Director of Athletic Bands
Mr. Christopher Ulffers
Director, School of Music
Dr. Christopher Buddo
Dean, College of Fine Arts and Communication
ECU Athletic Director Jeff Compher issued this statement regarding the ECU Marching Pirates band performance at Saturday's game against UCF:
"We are working with the University and the School of Music in response to the incident with the band prior to the game on Saturday. While the Marching Band does not report to Athletics, we do count on them to be an important part of the game day experience.
There are ongoing conversations with the University, the School of Music and the band, and we are confident that there will be a positive resolution for future games.
Our football program relies on the passion of our fan base and we will continue to proudly lead our team out of the tunnel with the American Flag for each and every game."
Conversation widely continued in the east and online Sunday after some members of the ECU Marching Pirates band chose to kneel during their performance of the National Anthem at Saturday's home game against UCF.
Josh Killian tells WITN he is one of the members who chose to kneel, and that he did it to show solidarity with others protesting against police violence across the country.
Not everyone in the band agrees with the choice to kneel during the pre-game performance. In a close-up picture, two Tuba players can be seen holding an American flag at chest-level between them.
Those two band members are Hunter Marketto and Dylan Allen. They say they heard some people were going to kneel and decided they would hold a flag together instead.
"We wanted to do it, not to show division, but to show that there are so many different ideas within the band and that we're all unified no matter what it comes to. and that flag is what we are all unified under," Marketto said.
While they chose to express themselves differently and will continue to hold the flag for as long as others are kneeling, the two say they do respect their fellow band members' right to kneel.
Dylan Allen said, "I am a proud member of the Marching Pirates. I love this school, I've been here for four years now. And I will continue to march on and carry that flag if need be."
Many people are upset with the members who chose to kneel.
On our website poll, around 80% of voters have chosen "no" they do not feel the students had the right to kneel, while about 20% chose "yes."
ECU Alumni Myles Swain said, "It just made me sick to my stomach because there are people, and I have friends and family that have fought overseas and risked their life on a daily basis so we could fly this flag."
The band came back onto the field Saturday for their halftime performance to boos from the crowd, and after the game band members had to be escorted from the property.
Allen and Marketto say people were throwing things at them, spitting and yelling racial slurs.
ECU police did issue one person a citation for intoxication and disruptive behavior for an incident involving band members.
It is unclear whether any band members will continue kneeling at future performances.
The next ECU home game is on October 13th against Navy.
The Chancellor of East Carolina University, Dr. Cecil Staton, released a statement Saturday afternoon after some members of the ECU Marching Pirates band kneeled during their performance of the National Anthem at Saturday's game against the University of Central Florida.
About a dozen members kneeled, some continued to play the National Anthem while kneeling, while others did not.
When the band returned to the field for their halftime performance, many fans booed.
Chancellor Staton's statement says, "As an institution of higher learning, East Carolina respects the rights of our students, staff and faculty to express their personal views. That is part of the free exchange of ideas on a university campus. While we acknowledge and understand the disappointment felt by many Pirate fans in response to the events at the beginning of today's football game, we urge all Pirate students, supporters and participants to act with respect for each other's views. Civil discourse is an East Carolina value and part of our ECU creed. We are proud that recent campus conversations on difficult issues have been constructive, meaningful exchanges that helped grow new understanding among our campus community. East Carolina will safeguard the right to free speech, petition and peaceful assembly as assured by the U.S. constitution"