September 1, 2013

Florida A&M band back at football game after suspension

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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The Florida A&M University band performs at halftime Sunday in Orlando, Fla., during FAMU’s season-opening football game against Mississippi Valley State – its first appearance in a football stadium in nearly 22 months after the 2011 hazing death of a drum major.

AP

Tracy Martin was an honorary captain for Sunday's game and led FAMU's football team onto the field.

"It takes a tragic situation to bring people together," Martin said later in an interview. "It's just a bond that we kind of share. They went through tragic incident, and we went through something tragic."

As the band returned, cases surrounding the hazing incident continue. Fifteen former band members were charged with manslaughter and felony hazing in Champion's death. Seven have accepted pleas that included probation and community service-related sentences. Another has pleaded but hasn't been sentenced, and the rest await trial.

Pam Champion said she hopes sentences for the remaining defendants will send a message to stop future incidents.

"What I would say is what I've said all along. There is an opportunity to send a strong message, and it's the only thing that will be a deterrent," she said. "So far that message has not been sent to eradicate hazing all together."

The Champions also have filed wrongful-death lawsuits against FAMU and the company that owns the bus in which the hazing took place.

But on Sunday, the future – not FAMU's recent past – was the focus for fans.

"We're Rattlers. We come back strong. We come back striking," said Shakera Akins, a 2011 FAMU graduate. "We're already a close-knit family, so it just brings us closer together. We heal quickly. We strike from the top."

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