ESPN announced it will give the University of Missouri (MU) football team a special humanitarian award in July for the team’s strike, which led to the the school’s president being fired and a massive drop in enrollment.
Last fall, MU was hit by a wave of protests led by Concerned Student 1950, which claimed the school was a hotbed of racial animosity in need of drastic change, starting with the removal of college president Tim Wolfe. The protest received limited, mostly local attention, until early November, when an absolute bomb dropped. Black members of MU’s football team announced they were joining the protest movement by going on strike. They wouldn’t practice or play games until Wolfe was gone. Within days, Wolfe was out, along with Columbia campus Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin.
The success of activists at Missouri sparked a wave of imitators all across the country, who held their own mass protests and wrote their own demand lists, to varying degrees of success. It also sparked a major backlash against MU itself, which has seen a big drop in enrollment that has torn a $32 million hole in its budget.
Now, ESPN has decided to reward MU’s football team for its acts. The sports network announced Friday that the 2015 team will be collectively honored at its second annual Sports Humanitarian of the Year awards, which are held in tandem with the ESPY awards. During the July 12 show in Los Angeles, the team will be given the Stuart Scott ENSPIRE award, named in honor of the ESPN anchor who died of cancer last year. The award “celebrates someone that has taken risk and used an innovative approach to helping the disadvantaged through the power of sports,” ESPN said in a statement.
In its press release, ESPN summed up the team’s accomplishments as follows:
Racial tensions were becoming increasingly strained at the University of Missouri last fall. Frustrations gave rise to protests — one of the most notable coming when a student at the school began a hunger strike. Students were demanding action, and the Mizzou Tigers football team stepped in and announced that they would boycott their upcoming game unless changes were made. The players took a huge risk — their scholarships could have been revoked and their futures hung in the balance. But their actions indicated it was a risk worth taking to help bring action to this critical issue.
It’s currently unclear who will accept the award on the team’s behalf.
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