08 November 15
A group of black players on the Missouri football team says it will stop participating in football activities until university system president Tim Wolfe resigns.
The announcement came via Twitter on Saturday night in a post by Missouri’s Legion of Black Collegians. It comes after several recent racial incidents on Missouri’s campus, and with Wolfe under fire for how he has handled them.
The tweet included a photograph of 32 black men, including starting running back Russell Hansbrough.
“The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe ‘Injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere,'” the tweet read. “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!!!!!”
Missouri issued a statement later Saturday.
“The department of athletics is aware of the declarations made tonight by many of our student-athletes,” it said. “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’ losing streak reached four games with a 31-13 loss to Mississippi State on Thursday night. Missouri next plays BYU on Saturday in Kansas City, Missouri.
Racial tension has been brewing at Missouri’s campus in Columbia since September, when Payton Head, the Missouri Students Association president and an African-American, said he was racially abused while walking. Students protested when it took nearly a week for the university chancellor to address the incident.
Then in October, a student yelled the N-word at members of the Legion of Black Collegians in a campus plaza while they were rehearsing for a play. And later that month, someone smeared a swastika with their own feces on a bathroom wall in a new residence hall.
The university downplayed the incident, and more backlash toward administrators ensued — with Wolfe enduring the most. Wolfe met with Butler and student groups on Friday to discuss the university’s handling of racial harassment cases.
Jonathan Butler, a Missouri grad student, began a hunger strike against Wolfe on Monday, saying Wolfe has failed to respond to student concerns. A change.org petition to remove Wolfe from office has over 2,000 supporters.
Now, the Tigers football team is involved.
According to the Columbia Daily Tribune, 42 of the 64 players on Missouri’s current depth chart are African-American. Several took to social media on Saturday night to address the protest, with one, cornerbackJohn Gibson, saying: “(The decision) has nothing to do with our coaches. Our coaches are 100% behind us. Including the white ones.”
Missouri’s campus in Columbia sits about two hours west of Ferguson, the St. Louis suburb where tensions erupted following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Brown, who was black, was unarmed when he was shot by a white police officer during a confrontation in a street in August 2014. His death sparked ongoing protests and helped spawn the national “Black Lives Matter” movement rebuking police treatment of minorities.