Following a series of racist incidents on campus, at least 32 members of the University of Missouri’s football team will not play until the school’s president, Tim Wolfe, resigns. On Saturday night, a group of black players declared that they are going on strike, citing Wolfe’s “negligence” in handling discrimination on campus.
The announcement was tweeted from Missouri’s Legion of Black Collegians, next to a photo of 32 players with linked arms. According to the Columbia Missourian, 60 of the 124 players on the current roster are black, but the exact number joining the protest is undetermined.
“The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe ‘Injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere,” the caption 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!!!!!”
African-Americans make up 7 percent of the student body. The athletes’ decision came days after a graduate student named Jonathan Butler went on hunger strike for the same reasons.
“The revolting acts that are occurring at Mizzou are a result of a poisonous infestation of apathy that has been spawning from University of Missouri system leadership,” Butler wrote in a Facebook post Monday, when he announced his strike. “For some that may seem like a flamboyant statement but when you sit back and reflect on the fact that a MU student felt comfortable enough with the campus culture to use their own feces to draw a swastika on campus, that really tells you about the direction in which the University of Missouri is headed.”
In addition to the swastika incident that occurred in October, which Wolfe attempted to minimize, white students in a pickup trucked yelled “nigger” repeatedly at the Missouri Students Association president in September. Wolfe did not issue a response until one week later, after students protested on campus. Shortly after, a group of black students were rehearsing for a play when white students called them the same derogatory name.
Mizzou students have been protesting for days. Among the football players taking a stand against Wolfe are the team’s starting running back and corner back. According to one, the team’s coaches are understanding and supportive of the decision.
— HeMadeAKing (@1Sherrils_2MIZZ) 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
The school issued a statement Saturday night, saying, “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.”
A University of Pennsylvania study from 2013 found that black men made up 57.1 percent of NCAA football teams, even though they account for less than 5 percent of undergraduates at those universities. Most of them are on scholarship. They, too, are subjected to racism, in large part because they are seen as “others” who are only there because of athletic — not academic — abilities.
Missouri’s football players aren’t alone in protesting acts of racism on campus this year. In March, the University of Oklahoma football team walked out of practice and joined an on-campus protest after video of an OU fraternity’s racist chant surfaced.