Day ‘the 19’ knelt: Special report on ECU band protest

The Oct. 1, 2016, protest by 19 Marching Pirates was a profound moment for ECU and the community it calls home.

It sparked outrage from most quarters. It sent university administrators scrambling to find their footing after their initial statement of support for free speech fell flat. It propelled ECU and the Greenville-Pitt County community into the national spotlight—and the raw presidential campaign politics of that time.

It is an event that is worth understanding.

Student-journalists in the spring 2017 In-Depth Reporting class in ECU’s School of Communication spent the semester digging into the protest and its aftermath.

They cataloged and reviewed more than 400 emails related to the protest. The emails were obtained under the N.C. public records law, and covered those sent by and to Chancellor Cecil Staton and Athletics Director Jeff Compher from Sept. 29-Oct. 6, 2016.

They interviewed ECU officials, Marching Pirates, professors, legal experts and others.

And they crafted a wide-ranging group of stories about the day “the 19” took a knee and sparked a firestorm.

Here are their stories:

Timeline series

  1. Emails show ECU calm, ready for possible band protest
  2. Outrage at protest swept Pirate Nation with hurricane force
  3. ECU struggled to find right message about protest, band

From the Athletics Department

Messages sent, lost, muddled

Six months gone by