Dozens of black football players at the University of Missouri have had enough. After months of protests by activists went nowhere, around 30 football players vowed to strike until university President Tim Wolfe steps down or is fired for his inability to deal with a series of racist incidents on campus, reports the Maneater. The players took to Twitter on Saturday night to announce they will not participate in team activities, posting a photograph of the athletes linking arms with Jonathan Butler, who is on his sixth day of a hunger strike to call attention to the issue.
Along with the photograph, the students attached a message: “The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe ‘injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere’ 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!!!!!”
Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel did not take long to express support for the boycott. “The Mizzou family stands as one. We are united. We are behind our players,” Pinkel wrote in a tweet that included a photograph of the team.
With their actions, the football players suddenly lent their powerful voices to support activists who for months have been protesting the way that Wolfe has failed to respond to a rising number of racist incidents on campus. For many, the final straw came on Oct. 24, when someone used human feces to draw a swastika on the wall of a college dorm, reports the New York Times. Earlier last month, members of the Concerned Student 1950 group, named after the year the university began accepting black students, protested Wolfe at the university’s homecoming parade.
Butler spoke to the Washington Post on Thursday night and said he was only drinking water. “I have pain all over. I’m exhausted. Of course, I’m hungry. I’ve got an ongoing headache,” he said. Wolfe met with Butler and other activists on Friday and issued a statement saying he was listening to Butler’s “important and powerful” voice. He also apologized for failing to talk to the protesting students at the homecoming parade.
It was only a few hours later though that Wolfe again angered activists when he was confronted by a group of students who asked him to define systematic oppression, notes the Maneater. “Systematic oppression is because you don’t believe that you have the equal opportunity for success,” he said after at first refusing to answer the question. “Did you just blame us for systematic oppression?” one of the students can be heard asking in video of the encounter.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon also released a statement Sunday: “Racism and intolerance have no place at the University of Missouri or anywhere in our state. Our colleges and universities must be havens of trust and understanding. These concerns must be addressed to ensure the University of Missouri is a place where all students can pursue their dreams in an environment of respect, tolerance and inclusion.”