By Milton Baker, Jr.
The Missouri football strike was about a lot of things, but most importantly it was about respect. Majority of the African American population at the University of Missouri felt there was an injustice being given towards them by their school as well as the president of the university Tim Wolfe.
Many of the universities’ students have felt un-equal as well as unsafe for years, so this protest and movement has been a long time coming. The students’ reasons for the feeling of un-equality can go all the way back to the 1935to 1950 when 70 African American men and women under the leadership of Lloyd Gaines sought admission in to the University of Missouri’s undergraduate and graduate program. Exactly, in 1950 blacks were first enrolled into the University of Missouri. Furthermore, Missouri admitted its first black football players, Norris Stevenson and Mel West in 1958. These young black players and so many more were force to listen to the marching band play “Dixie” while the people in the stands waved confederate flags, but most recent we can start in the 21st century.
In 2010 there was an incident were two white students scattered cotton balls outside of the Black Culture Center on campus, which was viewed to just be a childish prank instead of being called out for its real intent; racism. Also with another event happening in 2015 at a protesting event where Wolfe’s car was blocked in at a homecoming parade as a way to help voice their concerns, when one of the protesters where tapped by his car while Wolfe laughed. These are just a few reasons why 32 Missouri football players of color decided to stop participating in any football-related activities until the president Tim Wolfe was removed from his job for how he has handled the racial incidents.
The start of this protest gained national attention and was used as a platform to shine the light on the injustice being brought against them. On top of the football team going on strike, an incident where a swastika was drawn in feces on a dorm wall caused a 25 year old graduate student- Jonathan L. Butler- to go on a hunger strike. Butler refused to consume anything but water until Wolfe was fired or resigned.
The strikes that were created upon the fate of Tim Wolfe career also launched the movement “#ConcernedStudent1950.” The movement was formed to fight back against the racial hostility that was allowed to go on at the university and showed up in a big way. Between the football team going on strike, half the population of the school planning a “walk out,” and a student nearly starving to death.
The fight was long and torturous but eventually the students got what they wanted with Tim Wolfe putting in his resignation. Wolfe later said “This is not, I repeat, not how change should come about,” as well as saying “I take full responsibility for the inaction, and I take full responsibility for the frustration that has occurred.” But I will say in the defense of Wolfe, he did release a statement saying “My administration has been meeting around the clock and had been doing a tremendous amount of reflection on how to address these complex matters,” he said. “We want to find the best way to get everyone around the table to create the safe space for a meaningful conversation that promote change.”
Students felt that this was not good enough and if he did not resign it would be a slap in their faces because he was so out of touch with the students. For example, a student asked Wolfe what systematic oppression was. He replied by basically saying that systematic oppression did not exist and that if the student want to be successful then it is up to the student because they have the equal opportunity.
Since Wolfe official leave of absence, it has made the 7 percent of the African American population at the school feel much better about their decisions to protest and stand up for what they believe in, though it did come with some consequences. Two Missouri representatives offered a bill that would require any college to revoke the scholarships of any healthy student-athlete who refused to play as well as fines for the coaches who endorse the actions of the athletes.
This is an injustice in itself because students are a part of a larger society as well as it is a restriction of the first amendment rights. To a lot of people this is just another way to keep them as an indenture slaves for lack of a better term, to basically say to them though you are not happy, you still have to do what we say because we own you but you will receive a trade or a degree in the process. This will obviously make it hard for another college to follow in the Mizzou football team’s footsteps for justice.
In a world and community filled with so much diversity and hate, all these students are saying is that they want to feel equal. They want to feel accepted and not unwanted, and if the president did not feel the need to address the emotions of the students then it was a wise decision to resign and give someone else a chance to come in and make a difference. Wolfe’s resignation would not have been possible without the involvement of the Missouri football team aid in the fight against injustices. The boycott probably cost millions of dollars from game cancellation fees, gate receipts, and television revenue.