Black football players at Missouri are going on strike from football activities until a change is made in university leadership.
Missouri cornerback Anthony Sherrils posted this message to his Twitter account Saturday evening with a picture of a group of 32 Missouri players. The strike is after a Missouri graduate student named Jonathan Butler announced he was going on a hunger strike until University of Missouri president Tim Wolfe vacated his position.
“The department of athletics is aware of the declarations made tonight by many of our student athletes,” a statement from Missouri’s athletic department said. “We must all come together with leaders from across our campus to tackle these challenging issues and support our student-athletes’ right to do so.”
Cornerback John Gibson III said the team’s coaches and white players supported the movement.
Many African-American students are upset with what they feel is systemic racism on the campus. The latest incident happened Oct. 24 when a swastika made of feces was smeared on the wall of a dorm bathroom.
The movement started in September, when Payton Head, the head of the Missouri Students Association, said he was called racial slurs by people in a truck driving by him. He told the Columbia Missourian it was the first time he’d “experienced in-your-face racism” on campus.
Wolfe has come under fire in recent weeks for his and Missouri’s response to a recent series of race-related events. Most importantly, he gave what critics have deemed an insufficient response to a group of protestors who confronted him during Missouri’s Homecoming parade on Oct. 20, with the car carrying Wolfe also striking one of the protestors.
In response, a student group calling itself Concerned Student 1950 — which takes its name in part from the year that Missouri first admitted a black student — has emerged as a protesting body and in late October published a list of demands that include the resignation of Wolfe. And on Nov. 2, the protestor struck by Wolfe’s car, a graduate student named Jonathan Butler, announced he would begin a hunger strike that would last until Wolfe resigns, writing of incidents including the president of the Missouri Students Association being called a racial slur on campus.
Wolfe met with Butler on Friday and issued a statement that included an apology for his response during the Homecoming parade. But he also had a far less successful run-in with protestors in Kansas City, answering a question about “systematic oppression” poorly enough to produce howls that chased him as he walked away from the conversation, and video of that interaction caught fire on social media late Friday night.
“The department of athletics is aware of the declarations made tonight by many of our student-athletes,” a Mizzou spokesperson said in a statement. “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 significant subset of Missouri’s football team has joining the vocal resistance against Wolfe would seem to be the latest large-scale effort by the growing protest movement to force Wolfe and/or the university to act.