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  • Writer's pictureOrina Ontiri

Missouri governor expresses racism concerns as black college players strike

Black players from the Missouri Tigers football team say they will not participate in team activities until the university president, Tim Wolfe, resigns. On Sunday,Missouri governor Jay Nixon said the university must act to address concerns over “racism and intolerance”.

A member of Concerned Student 1950 films a protest in Mark Twain Dining Hall on University of Missouri campus. Photograph: Sarah Bell/AP

There have been several incidents of racial harassment in recent weeks on the college campus and Wolfe has come under criticism for his handling of the situation. In one recent incident, excrement in the shape of a swastika was smeared on a dormitory wall while other students have complained that racist slurs are common at the university. Jonathan Butler, a black graduate student at the college, is currently on hunger strike over the issue.

On Saturday night, the Legion of Black Collegians posted a message on Twitter calling for Wolfe to resign.

“The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe ‘injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere,’” the tweet said. “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!!!!!”

Athletes from the team, including star running back Russell Hanbrough, featured in a photo accompanying the tweet.

Governor Nixon on Sunday said that the university must be “a place where all students can pursue their dreams in an environment of respect, tolerance and inclusion.”

The Missouri athletics department issued a statement on Saturday that supported the athletes’ right to protest. “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.”

Tigers cornerback John Gibson III said the protest was backed by the team’s coaching staff. “Has nothing to do with our coaches. Our coaches are 100% behind us. Including the white ones,” he tweeted.

Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel showed his support for his players on Sunday in a tweet in which he said “we are behind our players”.

Wolfe released a statement on Saturday night, addressing Butler’s hunger strike but did not mention the players’ protest. “Today I again had the opportunity to meet with MU graduate student Jonathan Butler who continues a hunger strike protesting the inequalities, inequities, and obstacles faced by students, faculty and staff at the University of Missouri,” said Wolfe’s statement.

“I am very concerned about Jonathan’s health. His voice for social justice is important and powerful. He is being heard and I am listening. I am thankful for the leadership provided by him and the other student leaders in raising awareness of racism, injustice, and intolerance. This afternoon I also met with representatives of several student groups and I value their input and hear their voices.”

Mizzou last played on Thursday night, losing 31-13 to Mississippi State.


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