A Missouri state lawmaker has proposed legislation that would revoke the scholarships of any athletes at public schools who refuse to participate in games.
The legislator behind the bill is Rep. Rick Brattin, a Republican who represents a largely rural area south of Kansas City.
The bill does not address the motivation for players’ refusal to participate in games. Nevertheless, it is clearly a response to the strike threatened by 32 black University of Missouri football players in November. The players pledged to stop playing football and to avoid all team activities until Tim Wolfe, the president of the University of Missouri system, resigned. (RELATED: University Of Missouri Football Players BOYCOTT FOOTBALL Over Black Activist’s Hunger Strike)
The proposed law, House Bill No. 1743, would automatically revoke the athletic scholarship of “any college athlete who calls, incites, supports, or participates in any strike or concerted refusal to play a scheduled game.”
The bill would also punish coaches who are sympathetic to such players.
“Any member of a coaching staff who encourages or enables a college athlete” to refuse to play a game “shall be fined by his or her institution of employment,” the bill provides.
A co-sponsor of the bill, Republican Rep. Kurt Bahr of the St. Louis suburb of St. Charles, told the Columbia Daily Tribune that he hoped the statute on offer would lead to a debate about the way Mizzou officials handled the threatened strike and a related spate of race-related protests on campus. (RELATED: Meet The Sick Mizzou Media Professor Who Threatened A Reporter With MOB VIOLENCE)
“It is one thing for students to say we don’t like the coach or we don’t like the president,” Bahr told the Tribune. “For them to threaten and say we want heads and to not fulfill their obligations is something that simply should not be tolerated.”
Bahr said he is co-sponsoring the bill to punish players because he is disappointed with Mizzou officials.
“My issue isn’t that I am upset with students that said they didn’t want to play,” he told the newspaper. “My issue is broader to the unrest that is going on at the university and the poor response of the leadership.”
Bahr also noted that state lawmakers have fielded a slew of complaints from constituents who remain furious about the players’ briefly-threatened refusal to take the field.
The week of the short-lived players’ strike culminated in Mizzou’s football team best game of its otherwise very disappointing 5-7 season, a victory of Las Vegas Bowl-bound Brigham Young University by a score of 20-16.
Now-retired Missouri Tigers football coach Gary Pinkel publicly supported the 32 players and canceled a scheduled Sunday practice to prevent the players from falling afoul of team rules. (A few days later, Pinkel announced he would resign because he has cancer.)
University of Missouri graduate student Jonathan Butler convinced the players to make their political stand and led the ultimately successful calls for Wolfe to resign by going on a six-day hunger strike. Butler’s hunger strike also involved a swastika made out of poop which appeared in a dorm bathroom and an allegation from a black undergraduate student that someone in a pickup truck had uttered a racial slur at him at some off-campus location.
This summer, before his fleeting hunger strike, Butler, the son of a millionaire railroad executive, had attempted to lead a failed protest about the termination of subsidized health insurance for graduate students.
In a Monday tweet that was met with some disagreement, Columbia Tribune sports editor Joe Walljasper suggested that Mizzou athletic scholarships are funded not by taxpayers but completely by the Missouri Tigers Scholarship Fund.
MU athletic scholarships are funded with private donations to TSF. Whether the scholarships are honored isn't the business of politicians.
— Joe Walljasper (@JoeWalljasper) December 14, 2015
David Morrison, a Tribune MU football reporter, noted in another tweet that the school’s handbook for athletes instructs athletes to abide by state laws. As a respondent noted, it’s not clear that the football players who threatened not to play broke any then-existing laws.
There's also this about abiding to state laws in the MU athlete handbook: pic.twitter.com/dFOBNM93fP
— David Morrison (@DavidCMorrison) December 14, 2015
Dave Matter, the Mizzou athletics beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, predicted on Monday that new Missouri football coach Barry Odom would face a recruiting catastrophe if the bill passes.
If that bill passes it will be Christmas morning for coaches recruiting against Barry Odom https://t.co/ZuFOAeeO7W
— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) December 14, 2015