- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 4, 2016

East Carolina University said members of its marching band will not be allowed to kneel during the national anthem moving forward, after a protest during Saturday’s game against the University of Central Florida was met with boos.

At least 19 members of the Marching Pirates took a knee while playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” in Greenville Saturday night.

The university’s chancellor, Cecil Staton, initially issued a tepid response to backlash over the protest, saying the school supported students’ rights to free speech, CBS Sports reported.

But the story made national news in the following days, and an ESPN Fayetteville affiliate announced that it would not air East Carolina’s game at South Florida on Saturday.

On Tuesday, the university issued a statement saying future protests would not be tolerated on the field.

“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 statement read.

“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,” it continued. “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.”

One of the protesting band members, junior accounting major Rachel Potter, said she just wanted to be a part of a change.

“If me and some friends kneeling during the national anthem helps us get the change to happen in our community then all of the booing and hate speech is worth it,” she told The East Carolinian. “As a white person, I will never be able to understand what black people go through on a daily basis, but I can stand by their side and support the message that black lives really do matter.”

Band member Joshua Killian said the band met this weekend and decided not to speak to the media anymore.

“We as the band stand together in support of starting the conversation, but we have decided to stop speaking and allow the rest of the world to speak while we continue to play and support our school and community,” he said.

The movement began when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the anthem before preseason games to protest against racial injustice in the U.S.

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