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Mizzou Football Players Plan To Boycott In Protest Of UM System President

Mizzou Legion of Black Collegians

Update 6:30pm:

Football players from the University of Missouri say they are boycotting football activities to protest what they say is insufficient response to incidents of racism on the Columbia campus.

A group of students has been leading protests to draw attention to the school’s reaction to a string of incidents and have called on University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe to resign.

The football team is abstaining from practice in solidarity with the protestors, the team said Sunday in a statement attributed MU Athletic Director Mack Rhoades and football coach Gary Pinkel.

Jonathan Butler, an MU student and member of the protest group, has been on a hunger strike since Monday. Missouri football players said they plan to boycott football activities for the duration of Butler’s hunger strike.

“Our focus right now is on the health of Jonathan Butler, the concerns of our student-athletes and working with our community to address this serious issue,” the statement said, in part. “After meeting with the team this morning, it is clear they do not plan to return to practice until Jonathan resumes eating.”

Our original post continues below:

A group of football players at the University of Missouri say they won't train or play in any games until University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe resigns from office, joining a protest against what some students say is a lack of response to a string of racist incidents on campus.

The boycott by a group of players of color is in solidarity with student activist group Concerned Student 1950. Members of that group have protested against Wolfe and MU curators for weeks.

In a message posted late Saturday on the MU Legion of Black Collegian's Twitter account, more than 30 players appeared to announce their intention to boycott football activities. 

Shortly before noon Sunday, MU Head Coach Gary Pinkel Tweeted a picture of the entire football team, saying “The Mizzou Family stands as one. We are united. We are behind our players.”

It is unclear at this time how many students plan to boycott football activities. Attempts to contact Concerned Student 1950 and MU's Athletics department were not immediately returned. This post will be updated with any responses.

MU’s next football game is scheduled for Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium against Brigham Young University.  If MU can’t field a team, the university could be on the hook for a hefty fine.  The contract with BYU calls for a one million dollars in damages to be paid by the defaulting team.

Wolfe’s office has not responded to requests for an interview, but in a statement released Sunday Wolfe appeared to say that he won’t resign.

“It is clear to all of us that change is needed, and we appreciate the thoughtfulness and passion which have gone into the sharing of concerns,” the statement read.

“Clearly, we are open to listening to all sides, and are confident that we can come together to improve the student experience on our campuses. We want to find the best way to get everyone around the table and create the safe space for a meaningful conversation that promotes change.”

Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, an MU graduate, also weighed in Sunday. "At this point I think it is essential that the University of Missouri Board of Curators send a clear message to the students at Mizzou that there is an unqualified commitment to address racism on campus," she said in a statement. 

A number of racially-charged incidents have plagued MU’s Columbia campus in recent months.

In one incident, a swastika made of feces was found in a dorm. In another, students hurled racial slurs at Mizzou Student Body President Payton Head. In an interview with TheWashington PostHead said the incident was indicative of wider racial tension.

"This story is not just something that happens here," Head said. "It's not a Mizzou issue. It's a societal issue."

Jonathan Butler, a member of the group Concerned Student 1950, has been on a hunger strike since Monday to send a message to UM curators.

"I will not consume any food or nutritional sustenance at the expense of my health until either Tim Wolfe is removed from office or my internal organs fail and my life is lost," Butler wrote in a statement.

"There have been a slew of racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., incidents that have dynamically disrupted the learning experience for marginalized/underrepresented students at the University of Missouri."

Wolfe made a statement to the Board of Curators Friday and apologized for seeming apathetic towards Concerned Student 1950's concerns. Members of the group confronted Wolfe during a protest at MU's homecoming parade on Oct. 10.

"I am sorry, and my apology is long overdue," Wolfe said. "[Butler's] voice for social justice is important and powerful. He is being heard and I am listening."

Activists also confronted Wolfein Kansas City Friday evening, where he was attending a fundraiser.

Wolfe is president of the public University of Missouri System, which consists of four universities: University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Missouri S&T and University of Missouri-Kansas City.

KCUR is a service of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, but operates an independent editorial operation.

Cody Newill is part of KCUR's audience development team. Follow him on Twitter @CodyNewill or email him at cody@kcur.org.
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