Missouri didn’t have a game Saturday, but the football program still made major news when sophomore safety Anthony Sherrils tweeted that the team’s black players have gone on strike.
Sherrils tweeted: “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.”
Those words were accompanied by a picture of a group of black football players linked in arm in arm as a show of solidarity. Forty-one of the 58 players on Missouri’s offensive and defensive depth charts are black.
An athletics department spokesman told The Star via text message: “The department of athletics is aware of the declarations made tonight by many of our student-athletes. We all must come together with leaders from across our campus to tackle these challenging issues and we support our student-athletes right to do so.”
Wolfe, who is president of the University of Missouri system, has come under fire in recent months for his response, or lack of response in some cases, to a flurry of racist episodes on the Columbia campus.
Missouri Students Association President Payton Head, a black student from Chicago, jump-started a conversation about race at Missouri in mid-September with a Facebook post about being berated with racial epithets went viral.
As more students came forward with similar stories, black students organized a rally, while MU’s administration sat largely silent for several days.
An Oct. 5 incident, when an inebriated white male student stumbled onto the stage and spewed epithets as members of the Legion of Black Collegians rehearsed a homecoming skit, put racism on Missouri’s campus back in the spotlight.
MU chancellor R. Bowen Loftin immediately denounced the incident, but tensions continued to simmer.
During MU’s homecoming parade Oct. 10, several black students calling themselves Concerned Student 1950, including graduate student Jonathan Butler, surrounded Wolfe’s car and shouted chants, demanding to have marginalized voices heard, until Columbia police removed them from the parade route.
The Missouri Residence Hall Association confirmed that during the early-morning hours of Oct. 24 a student scrawled a swastika in human feces on the floor and wall of a dormitory.
Butler has since gone on a hunger strike, which entered its sixth day on Saturday, vowing not to eat until Wolfe steps down or is fired. He has expressed a willingness to die from starvation if necessary.
Wolfe admitted Friday to some missteps in his handling of sensitive issues regarding race on MU’s campus, but it might be too little and too late.
Missouri’s football players joined the protest, using arguably MU’s most visible platform to throw some massive heft behind Butler.
Here are some tweets from Missouri players:
Sophomore defensive end Charles Harris
Senior linebacker Clarence Green
Redshirt freshman cornerback Finis Stribling IV