Jelani Scott | Sports Editor
On November 7, the University of Missouri football team took a historic stand against their future Alma mater.
A stand that, after weeks of protests, finally led to the resignation of the university’s controversial president of three years, Tim Wolfe. The university’s chancellor, R. Bowen Loftin also made an announcement Monday that he would step down at the end of the year. “This is not — I repeat, not — the way change should come about. Change comes from listening, learning, caring and conversation,” Wolfe said on Monday, according to CNN.
Wolfe also said that his resignation “came out of love, not hate,” and he urged the university to “focus on what we can change” moving forward, not the past.
One of the most important and understated ways to impact those with money and power is to dent their wallets. NBC Sports reported that if Missouri’s protest carried into their November 14 game against Brigham Young University, it would have cost them $1 million.
This stipulation was added to the game day contract based on “the public relations, radio and television broadcasts, lost profits, and other consequential damages” that would have been lost via a forfeit. For this reason, many believe that the players’ protest on Saturday was the tipping point.
In a statement, released through UM’s Legion of Black Collegians (LBC), a black student government organization, 30 of the team’s African-Americans players detailed their reason for joining in protest with members of the student body.
“The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe ‘Injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere,’” stated the tweet. “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’ experience.”
Missouri’s athletic program, as well as Tigers’ head coach Gary Pinkel, also took to Twitter to express their support. The LBC has been at the forefront of this movement since it began. On September 12, the head of the Missouri Students Association, Payton Head once again showcased the power of social media. In a Facebook post about an experience he had the day before, Head shared that he was berated with racial slurs while walking on campus.
The post received over 1,900 shares and further highlighted the discriminatory viewpoints displayed towards him and others during his tenure. “I really just want to know why my simple existence is such a threat to society,” he wrote. Four days after Head’s post gained national attention, Chancellor Loftin issued a statement deeming the “recent incidents of bias and discrimination” as “unacceptable.”
He included that his administration was “working on a number of fronts to address the issues brought forward.”
On September 24 and October 1, students protested in response to the school still not making an effort to correct Head’s problem and the overall lack of urgency displayed by the university to fix other issues.
On October 8, four days after a drunken White student antagonized the LBC during the group’s homecoming preparations, Loftin ordered campus-wide diversity and inclusion training for 2016. Critics, including student leader Jonathan Butler, expressed their approval and skepticism at the announcement
On October 10, “Concerned Student 1950,” a protest group named for the year Black students were first admitted to the school, blocked Wolfe’s car during their homecoming parade.
The group chanted and made speeches, condemning the administration for their lackluster actions. Several other protests were made heading into November until Butler once again made headlines.
On November 2, Butler declared he would go on a hunger strike until Wolfe resigned. “Mr. Wolfe had ample opportunity to create policies and reform that could shift the culture of Mizzou in a positive direction but in each scenario he failed to do so,” said the graduate student in a letter to the University of Missouri Board of Curators. As of Monday, Butler has lifted the strike.
In the days since the departures, the players’ actions have seemingly inspired other schools. Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York held a solidarity walk on Wednesday in an attempt to oust their president as they also deal with systemic racism.
If more protests like these continue to gain publicity, it will become increasingly important to ask the question: could other schools and their teams, fed up with all talk and no action from their administration, follow suit?