A North Carolina radio station is dropping the broadcast of East Carolina’s upcoming football game after 19 members of the school’s marching band kneeled during the national anthem last weekend to protest racial injustice and police brutality, a station official said Tuesday.
WFAY-AM in Fayetteville, part of the Colonial Radio Group, announced Tuesday that it would not carry the Pirates’ game at South Florida scheduled for Saturday. It will carry Pirates games in the future, however, said Colonial Radio Group President and CEO Jeff Andrulonis.
An official of the Pirate IMG Radio Network didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.
The East Carolina band members who took a knee before the Central Florida game last weekend were following the lead of several NFL players, beginning with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand for the anthem before preseason games.
Band director William Staub, School of Music director Christopher Ulffers and College of Fine Arts and Communication dean Christopher Buddo issued a joint statement Monday saying they “regret the actions.”
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.”
“But once they don that uniform, they have a duty, they have an obligation to play and to be part of the band’s performance,” he said.
Andrulonis says while his is a small station in a small market, the market includes Fort Bragg, and he believes 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.
Instead of the Pirates game this weekend, the station will simulcast the Duke-Army game with a sister station.
Band members and fans from other schools have also participated in recent protests. On Sept. 24, some fans in the student section at the Pittsburgh-North Carolina game in Chapel Hill raised their fists and remained seated in protest during the playing of the national anthem. A diverse group of roughly 100 students wearing black shirts participated, as well as at least two UNC marching band members who took a knee — one while raising a fist.
At last weekend’s Wake Forest-N.C. State game in Raleigh, two members of the Wolfpack marching band took a knee during the anthem and didn’t play their instruments.