It was a bad day for East Carolina at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday. And it started even before the Pirates’ American Athletic Conference opener against Central Florida even kicked off. The school’s band sparked a controversy that saw it get booed by its own home fans when about a dozen of its members kneeled down during its rendition of the national anthem. The gesture, popularized by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, is a form of protest against the treatment of minorities by police across the country. The topic became a hot button issue in North Carolina two weeks ago when Keith Lamont Scott was killed by police in Charlotte. The band was booed again by Pirates fans when it returned to the field to do its halftime show. In response to the protests and the negative reaction to it, ECU chancellor Dr. Cecil Staton issued the following statement: “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.” Things went from bad to worse for ECU, which committed five turnovers and gave up a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on the way to 47-29 loss — its third straight setback after opening the season with two wins.
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