BY THE FLORIDA COURIER STAFF
Florida A&M University (FAMU) has settled a lawsuit with the family of Robert Champion over the hazing death of the drum major in 2011.Announced Friday (Sept. 18), by FAMU spokeswoman Lisa Brock, the settlement includes $1.1 million and an apology.
According to the settlement, an insurance company is to pay $800,000 to Champion’s estate and the university will pay $300,000 through the Florida Department of Financial Services. That’s the maximum allowed without the Florida Legislature’s approval.
In November 2011, the 26-year-old Champion died after being hazed in a band ritual on a bus at the Rosen Plaza hotel in Orlando. The band had stayed at the hotel during the Florida Classic weekend, the annual HBCU in-state rival event against Bethune-Cookman University. Champion died after band members beat him with fists and boards after the Florida Classic football game on Nov. 19.
FAMU also is to add a commemorative plaque in Champion’s memory at a location on campus – the university’s band room, at the band practice field called “The Patch,’’ or another site to be chosen by Champion’s family.
A portion of the apology issued by FAMU states, “On behalf of the FAMU Board of Trustees, please accept our sincere condolences and sympathies for the loss of your son, Robert Champion Jr., and please know that we are deeply sorry for your family’s and the world’s loss of such a fine and outstanding son, brother, musician and individual.
“We greatly appreciate the opportunity to honor Robert’s memory and spirit to help inspire and motivate people everywhere to forever eradicate hazing from our society once and for all.”
Champion’s death led to criminal charges against 15 former members of the band, which included his fellow drum majors. Most of those charged received probation and community service. The harshest sentence went to Dante Martin, considered the band ritual organizer, who has been sentenced to more than six years in prison for manslaughter and felony hazing.