Their son, Robert Champion, died after being pummeled in hazing ritual
The parents of a 26-year-old drum major want the Florida A&M University marching band program disbanded until the school rids itself of the kind of hazing rituals that resulted in their son’s death.
Robert Champion Jr., who was gay, was pummeled aboard a bus by fellow band members after a performance against a rival school and 13 people were charged this week (3 May) in his death.
‘You’ve got to clean house,’ Pam Champion said during a news conference in Atlanta after the criminal charges were announced. ‘That’s the only thing.’
Champion’s father, Robert Champion Sr. added: ‘The band should not be on the field until they clean house. Until they get it completely clean. There are 400 other students who are also in the band, and the same thing can happen to them.’
Eleven people have been charged with hazing resulting in death which is a felony. Two others face misdemeanor charges. The felony and misdemeanor offenses could result in nearly six years in prison if there is a conviction.
More serious charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter were not pursued by prosecutors.
The parents believe the criminal charges are not severe enough and also believe the university has not done enough to combat the hazing culture. That’s why they want to program halted rather than merely being on ‘indefinite suspension.’
‘Initially our theory was,’Hey, don’t stop the music, just stop the hazing,’ their attorney Christopher Chestnut said. ‘[But] we’ve got to stop it all. … We have to eradicate this culture.’
Witnesses have said the victim might have been targeted because he opposed the routine hazing that went on in the marching band or because he was gay.