FAMU Hazing: Band Finally Takes the FieldBy: Erika Watts - September 1, 2013
After being suspended for nearly two years due to a hazing scandal, the Florida A&M University marching band made its return to the field on Sunday. The once popular Marching 100 band performed during the FAMU Rattlers season-opener against Mississippi Valley State. This marked the first time in almost 22 months that the marching band performed on a football field.
Marching 100 came under fire after one of its band members, Robert Champion, was killed during a hazing incident. The 26-year-old drum major died because of injuries sustained during a beating following a football game on November 19, 2011. The hazing involved band members removing their shirt and walking down the aisle of a bus while being beaten with fists, drum sticks and other objects. According to another student, Champion was beaten excessively and eventually collapsed. After unsuccessful CPR attempts, Champion died of internal bleeding.
As a result of Champion’s death, the marching program was suspended and 15 band members were charged. Twelve of the band members were charged with manslaughter while two others were charged with third-degree felony hazing. FAMU has tried to reach a settlement with the Champion family and offered $300,000, but the Champions rejected the offer. The family is currently pursuing a wrongful-death lawsuit against the university and feels that the Marching 100 program was resurrected too quickly. “I don’t see anything that’s different to ensure the safety of those students,” Pam Champion said. “Everything that has been put in place is not something that was done voluntarily.”
The 400-plus member marching band was very popular prior to the hazing death, and the suspension of the program was a blow to the university. Even though Marching 100 brings back painful memories, many FAMU students and alumni are ready to put the past behind them and were happy to see the band back in action.
In addition to getting to see Marching 100 take the field, many fans were equally excited to see Tracy Martin, father of Trayvon Martin, lead the football team out on the field before the game. FAMU, a historically black college, named Martin the honorary captain of the team. Martin has been working with the football program after George Zimmerman was acquitted of murder charges relating to the 2012 shooting death.