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Football Players Join Protest Against UM System President Wolfe’s 'Negligence'


Athletes of color on the University of Missouri's football team will no longer be participating in any “football related activities” until the President of the University of Missouri system, Tim Wolfe, either resigns or is removed from office “due to his negligence toward marginalized students’ experiences.”


The message was shared on Twitter Saturday night by sophomore defensive back Anthony Sherrils. It was accompanied by a photo that showed Jonathan Butler, a student who is on day six of a hunger strike against Wolfe, standing in solidarity with the students of color on the football team.

The university's athletic department released a statement via Twitter in response to the black football players' strike.

Head football coach, Gary Pinkel, tweeted his support Sunday morning.


An athletics department spokesman sent a statement from Mack Rhoades and Gary Pinkel to KBIA Sunday afternoon. 

Today, Sunday, there will be no football practice or formal team activities. 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. After meeting with the team this morning, it is clear they do not plan to return to practice until Jonathan resumes eating. We are continuing to have department, campus, and student meetings as we work through this issue and will provide further comment tomorrow afternoon.

Gov. Jay Nixon also released a statement:

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.

This story will be updated as KBIA receives new information.

Update: Added statement from Chad Moller, athletics department spokesman.

Update: The following addresses the news conference given by MU head football coach Gary Pinkel and MU Athletic Director Mack Rhoades Monday afternoon.

Mizzou Football Coach Gary Pinkel said Monday he stands by his decision to support his players after they announced they would not participate in practices or games until Tim Wolfe resigned as UM System president.

MU Athletic Director Mack Rhoades and Pinkel addressed the circumstances surrounding the boycott during a previously scheduled news conference Monday afternoon. Unlike previous media days, players were not available for comment, a decision Pinkel says was the players’ own.

Credit Mikala Compton
MU Athletic Director Mack Rhoades and MU head coach Gary Pinkel discuss the circumstances surrounding the football team's boycott during a news conference Monday afternoon.

Pinkel said he sees himself as a father to his players and said the discussions with his players revolved around saving Jonathan Butler’s life, not former UM System President Tim Wolfe losing his job.

“They asked me if I’d support them and I said I would. I didn’t look at consequences, that wasn’t about it at the time. It was about helping my players and supporting my players when they needed me and I did the right thing and I would do it again,” Pinkel said.  

Rhoades said the athletic department and its student athletes have the responsibility to act as leaders for the university.

Credit Mikala Compton
MU head coach Gary Pinkel says he has blinders on during the football season and focuses mainly on the team instead of other university issues.

  “We have some issues on this campus, we have some issues in our athletic department and we need to face those head on and resolve them, and we’ve got a lot of smart people in our athletic department and a lot of caring people and that certainly starts with our student athletes and we can be leaders in helping resolve some of the social issues,” Rhoades said.  

After Wolfe’s resignation, Pinkel said football practice will resume tomorrow and players are looking forward to their game against Brigham Young University on Saturday.

Rebecca Smith is a reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. She was born and raised in Rolla, Missouri, and graduated with degrees in Journalism and Chemistry from Truman State University in May 2014. Rebecca comes to KBIA from St. Louis Public Radio, where she worked as the news intern and covered religion, neighborhood growth and the continued unrest in Ferguson, MO.
Nathan Lawrence is an editor, documentary filmmaker and data journalist.