Roy Exum: Protest The Protests?

Thursday, October 6, 2016 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

If you drive from Raleigh, N.C., to Atlantic Beach, you can figure on three hours in the car with a midway stop in Greenville for a barbecue sandwich. I know because I have experience and Greenville is a lot like Auburn; a small town with about 28,000 college kids who attend East Carolina.

ECU jumped into the nation’s view last Saturday when about 20 band members of the Marching Pirates kneeled during the National Anthem, refusing to play their flutes and other instruments in the unpopular protest of the moment spurred by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

There is one other thing you need to know about Greenville. It is 85 miles northeast of Fort Bragg and there are a number of soldiers who take classes at the third-largest and fastest-growing university in the state. So you can understand why the Marching Pirates’ halftime show during last week’s 47-29 whipping by Central Florida caught attention.

The ECU football team, with only one win thus far, will be equally shamed this weekend when the Pirates travel to South Florida. Not only is USF a better team but the insult has already been delivered. The team’s flagship radio station has announced there is “no way” that WFAY, the ESPN affiliate, will travel with any students who actively disrespect the United States.

Whoa! At last week’s Alabama game about 30 Crimson Tide students sat in a “Black Lives Matter” protest and at Nebraska, where three Cornhuskers kneeled, the Omaha Mayor and university Regent Hal Daub is calling for all three to be dismissed from the team. Suddenly the “protests to the protest” are gaining in popularity.

ECU chancellor Cecil Staton issued a quick reaction Saturday. “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,” the chancellor wrote

 “Civil discourse is an East Carolina value and part of our ECU creed,” Staton’s statement read. “We are proud that recent campus conversations on difficult issues have been constructive, meaningful exchanges that helped grow new understanding among our campus community.”

But Kiernan Shanahan, a Raleigh attorney and member of the ECU board of trustees, had a different view and hardly minced words when he talked to Fox columnist Todd Starnes. “The strong boos from the crowd when they realized what was happening certainly echoed the sentiment of the board,” the attorney said.

“It was unfortunate and poor judgement for these few band members to disrespect our country, to take advantage of the uniforms they were wearing as ECU Pirate band members – to advance a personal agenda.”

He further explained, “We foster and encourage free speech but that has to be tempered by time, place and circumstances. It was not the right time, place and (it was) the incorrect manner for these students to articulate personal dissent. It reflected poorly on the band.”

Jeff Andrulonis, the chairman of Colonial Media, told reporters that when he heard the Chancellor’s remark, “it just pushed me over the edge … these band members disgraced themselves on the football field this past weekend."

Andrulonis, who was on the radio station’s mic all day during the 9/11 honors, has every station the media company owns play the National Anthem every day at noon because he is so “proud of our country and our soldiers... especially our soldiers from Fort Bragg," so the radio station will "protest the protest."

Andrulonis said in his statement that he supports “the rights of the band members to protest but that doesn't exempt them from repercussions. 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 (Stadium). They're college students and it's about time they get an education on the concept that their actions have consequences."

Then East Carolina’s Band director William Staub, School of Music director Christopher Ulffers and College of Fine Arts and Communication dean Christopher Buddo jumped into the fray. In a joint statement they announced they "regret the actions" taken by members who took a knee during the National Anthem ceremonies and that they each expect the members of the Marching Pirates "will learn from this experience and fulfill their responsibilities." They call the protests "hurtful to many in our Pirate family and disrespectful to our country."

* * *

HALL OF FAMER TERRY BRADSHAW -- "I do have a problem when people in this country don't respect our flag and National Anthem," Bradshaw said. "All you got to do is look around—this country's getting worse and worse and more and more immoral, and we're rotting from within. All great empires die from within. We can't talk about Jesus. We can't mention that anymore. So we say 'I'm religious' - because if we say Jesus, you automatically are pigeonholed and kicked off the desk.

“You can't talk about it. The two vice presidential guys are going at it and they are both saying what? 'We're religious.' What does that mean - you're religious? Everybody is religious.”

* * *

TUESDAY’S QUOTE FROM FORBES – “The Sporting News article (this week) says “Nearly one-third (32 percent) of adults say they’re less likely to watch NFL game telecasts because of the Kaepernick-led player protests against racial injustice, according to Rasmussen’s telephone/online survey of 1,000 American adults conducted Oct. 2-3. Only 13 percent said they were more likely to watch an NFL game because of continuing protests by Kaepernick and supporters such as Antonio Cromartie of the Colts (who was cut only two days after raising a fist during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in London on Sunday).”

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