The parents of Florida A&M drum major Robert Champion Jr. dispelled Tuesday rumors that their son was hazed because he was gay. They also announced plans to sue bus company Fabulous Coach Lines next week. Champion died after he was allegedly beaten in a ritual called "crossing Bus C," which happened on one of the Fabulous Coach Lines.
During the press conference, held in Orlando, their lawyer, Christopher Chestnut, made clear that the family is trying to combat hazing at Florida A&M. has a 50-year history of hazing in the band," Chestnut said. "Robert's alternative lifestyle did not define him. He was defined by the fact that he followed the rules and was against
Through preliminary investigations and interviews with Marching ‘100' band members, the family found out that Champion was gay.
"The family came out today because they wanted to clear the record that this is a hazing crime and not a hate crime," Chestnut said in a phone interview with The Famuan.
Chuck Hobbs, attorney for FAMU band director Julian White, released a statement on his client's behalf.
"Assuming that the assertions of the Champion family and their attorney Christopher Chestnut are true, then it is entirely possible that his tragic death was less about any ritualistic hazing and more tantamount to a hateful and fully conscious attempt to batter a young man because of his sexual orientation" Hobbs said. "As such, the efforts of Dr. White expended to root out and report hazing could not have predicted or prevented such deliberate
White is still on administrative leave with pay after being fired and rehired in the wake of Champion's Nov. 19 death. Fabulous Coach Lines has driven FAMU for the past three years. Before Champion's death, there have not been any issues between the company and university. The company does not have a history of any passenger injuries or deaths.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Chestnut said, "The bus company has some liability. They knew or should have known that hazing was occurring on the
Ray Land, president of Fabulous Coach Lines, said the driver was not present during the "Bus C" ritual. However, the driver tried to save Champion by resuscitating him and working with students to call for medical attention. He added, the band staff was transported to the hospital to accompany Champion who rode unconscious in an ambulance.
"We did our job which was safely transporting the passengers from the stadium to the hotel and picking them up safely after," Land said. "I'm not sure why they look to us in the death of their son. We are not responsible for individual passengers. Our job is not to manage individual passengers."
Champion died in a hazing ritual hours after the Florida Classic in Orlando. On Dec.14, his death was ruled a homicide. The cause of death is attributed to blunt trauma to several parts of his body including his face and chest.
The family has yet to file a lawsuit against FAMU. Chestnut said the Champions' main concern is to find out the details behind their son's death.