Over 30 black football players for the University of Missouri football team have pledged to stop playing football and to avoid all team activities until Tim Wolfe, the president of the University of Missouri system, resigns.
On Saturday night, social media swirled with a photo of 32 black Mizzou players — many of them locked in arms — along with this statement: “The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ We will no longer participate in any football related activities until President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed due to his negligence toward marginalized students’ experiences. WE ARE UNITED!!!!!”
Here is the photo as tweeted by a Mizzou group called the Legion of Black Collegians:
— LBC (@MizzouLBC) November 8, 2015
The focus of the calls for Wolfe to resign is a hunger strike by Jonathan Butler, a University of Missouri graduate student.
Butler — who appears in the photo with the 32 players — wants to force Wolfe’s resignation because of a handful of recent incidents which have occurred on the Columbia, Mo. campus.
In a letter to school officials posted on his Facebook page, Butler indicated that he began his hunger strike because someone in a pickup truck allegedly shouted a racist insult at a black student government member, because state law prevents Planned Parenthood from performing on-campus abortions and because someone drew a swastika with human feces in a dormitory bathroom.
Some observers have suggested that the bathroom swastika may be a hoax. Why, law professor blogger Ann Althouse has asked, for example, would any dedicated racial supremacist create a swastika out of human feces?
Butler admits in the letter that none of the incidents he cites are Wolfe’s fault. Nevertheless, Butler has concluded, “as a collection of incidents at the university, they are his responsibility to address.”
This summer, prior to Butler’s decision to go on a hunger strike because of racism allegations, the graduate student’s substantially different agenda focused on a change in University of Missouri policy which ended subsidized health insurance for graduate students. To Butler’s chagrin, school officials also stopped offering certain grad student tuition waivers and tore down some graduate student housing.
The Columbia Daily Tribune shows a robust-looking Butler acting as a self-appointed “chant leader” during a “day of action” on Aug. 26. He carried a large bullhorn.
School officials have said the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — forced them to stop subsidizing grad student health insurance.
Butler’s hunger strike has now reached a week in length. He swears he won’t eat anything (including multivitamins) until Wolfe, the MU system president, resigns.
Wolfe met with Butler and a group of student leaders on Friday. In a statement, the top MU bureaucrat described Butler as an influential voice in the social justice movement. Wolfe also said he is worried about Butler’s condition.
Groups of protesters have marched across the University of Missouri campus for the last 6 days in response to Butler’s ongoing hunger strike. The protesters are calling themselves Concerned Student 1950. (The name relates to the year the first black student matriculated at Mizzou.)
“Racism lives at the University of Missouri,” a protester shouted during a typical day of protest, reports the Missourian.
“Two black, female students — including myself — were called the n-word by four white males while being recorded outside of the rec center,” another protester yelled while standing on a chair in a crowded dining hall.
Here is Wolfe on Friday night attempting to address concerns about “systematic oppression” from some viscerally angry protesters — presumably students at Mizzou, the state’s flagship university.
saw this last night but didn’t have context. the system president. presented without comment. pic.twitter.com/KVGvf30vQp
— El Flaco (@bomani_jones) November 8, 2015
Several University of Missouri football players have tweeted support for Butler’s hunger strike and for the protest movement including starting running back Russell Hansbrough, cornerback John Gibson III and injured running back Trevon Walters.
Never thought I would be in place or time like this to actually make a difference.
— Russell Hansbrough (@imthatnike) November 8, 2015
@EdgeofSports has nothing to do with our coaches. Our coaches are 100% behind us. Including the white ones
— John Gibson III (@thatgibsonkid) November 8, 2015
United We Stand! #ConcernedStudent1950
— Trevon Walters ® (@trevon_walters) November 8, 2015
Backup linebacker Grant Jones, the son of MU running backs coach Brian Jones, said the 32 players in the image have deep support from the entire team.
If anyones mistaken the 32 players that are in the picture are not the only players participating in the boycott #ConcernedStudent1950
— Grant Jones1⃣5⃣ (@g_jones015) November 8, 2015
Missouri’s players were available to pose for a protest photo this weekend because they lost 31-13 at home on Thursday night by Mississippi State.
University of Missouri football team spokesman Chad Moller has issued a statement about the prospective refusal of the football team to play football.
“The department of athletics is aware of the declarations made tonight by many of our student-athletes,” Moller said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We all must come together with leaders from across our campus to tackle these challenging issues and we support our student-athletes right to do so.”
The Tigers are having a rough year. Thursday’s loss pushed the team’s record to 4-5 (1-5 in the SEC).
Mizzou’s remaining games are against Brigham Young, Tennessee and Arkansas. The BYU game is on Saturday in Kansas City.