University of Missouri

MU coach Gary Pinkel distances himself from activist group in radio interview

Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel
Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel distanced himself from the Concerned Student 1950 movement Tuesday in a radio interview with Kevin Kietzman on WHB (810 AM).

On Sunday, a post from Pinkel’s verified Twitter account contained a picture of players, coaches and staff — black and white — indicating the team’s unity in support of a players boycott.

Black Missouri football players announced Saturday that they would boycott “any football-related activities until (university system) President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed” in solidarity with the Concerned Student 1950 activist group.

Pinkel’s Twitter post, which was sent after a team meeting Sunday morning at the Mizzou Athletics Training Complex, included the #ConcernedStudent1950 hashtag, which could be construed as support for the group’s message and goals. The end of the Twitter post contained Pinkel’s initials, GP.

The activist group’s initial primary goal was the ouster of Pinkel’s boss, Wolfe, who resigned Monday under mounting pressure that ramped up significantly when the football team joined the protest.

“What happened was that I have somebody that tweets for me a lot to get information out, and that person should not have put that hashtag on,” Pinkel told Kietzman. “That organization can do what they want to, no judgments on them at all, but that should not have come out.”

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Pinkel has consistently said he was supporting his players, who were motivated to help bring MU graduate student Jonathan Butler’s hunger strike to an end. Butler stopped eating Nov. 2 and vowed to starve to death unless Wolfe stepped down or was fired.

Pinkel deflected questions about Wolfe and Columbia campus chancellor R. Bowen Loftin stepping down Monday amid the protests.

“That’s something that the university systems did,” Pinkel said. “It certainly wasn’t my intention, but that was secondary to me supporting my players.”

When asked by Kietzman whether he would support similar movements if one of his players went on a hunger strike seeking to have Communication/Mass Media assistant professor Melissa Click fired for her role in restricting reporter access Monday on Carnahan Quad on the school’s campus, Pinkel had enough.

“Too complex for me,” he replied tersely.

When pressed, he said: “I don’t have an opinion on that. I’m preparing for a football game. I’m not going to answer something that I haven’t given much thought to.”

Pinkel said the team was united, while acknowledging that every player probably didn’t agree with the boycott.

“When push came to a shove, it’s the same thing we have with the culture with the Michael Sam situation,” he said. “Everybody was on board, even though maybe they didn’t totally agree, because that’s family and this is a team.”

Shortly before Pinkel’s interview was broadcast, Missouri men’s basketball coach Kim Anderson spoke to reporters in Columbia.

He said he and his staff were aware of the protests on campus and had a meeting Sunday with MU athletic director Mack Rhoades, deputy athletic director Wren Baker, who is the men’s basketball administrator, and players before practice.

“I told our guys at that time that I would support anything that they wanted to do,” Anderson said. “We didn’t really have the knowledge, though, of what was going on. None of our guys had had any personal interaction with Jonathan Butler.”

The players decided to practice and attend study hall, choosing to further evaluate the situation and meet again Monday afternoon.

“We talked about joining in,” freshman guard Terrence Phillips said. “We didn’t know how we were going to do it or when we were going to do it, but we did discuss it and we were going to discuss it again on Monday.”

Anderson wanted his players to be fully informed and unified before deciding anything, but there seemed to be some support.

Missouri basketball coach Kim Anderson broke down the time line of events relative to the Tigers basketball team as protests on campus drew attention nationwide over the weekend.

“I think what the football players did was really good for our university,” said freshman forward Kevin Puryear, a Blue Springs South graduate.

Wolfe resigned, Butler ended his hunger strike and the football team announced it would end its boycott before the Tigers’ basketball team met Monday.

Anderson — who played at MU from 1973-77, coached under Norm Stewart from 1982-85 and 1991-99 and was hired as head coach in 2014 — said no former teammates or players expressed problems to him with racism on campus through the years. But Anderson acknowledged that he has heard of racist incidents.

“It’s important that, from this situation, that we learn from it and hopefully healing has begun,” Anderson said. “Hopefully, we can use this to bring our campus community closer together. This is my school, so I certainly want to do what I can to help.”

Asked about the resignations tendered by Wolfe and Loftin, who approved his contract when he was hired, Anderson said he believed both men cared a great deal about MU.

“I think both of them put what’s best for the university and the campus before themselves …” Anderson said. “I’m appreciative to both of them for the opportunity to be the head basketball coach and wish both of them well.”

On the radio, Pinkel called MU’s situation extenuating circumstances and hoped similar situations would not happen on other campuses.

“I think there’s racism everywhere on every campus in the country,” Pinkel said. “I don’t see any. I’ve never seen a Confederate flag in Columbia. I’m sure there has been. People that use racial, negative, hate slurs — we don’t need them in the University of Missouri, and we don’t need them in Columbia. We don’t need them anywhere.”

Several trucks were spotted around Columbia throughout the weekend flying Confederate flags, including at least one that drove by the protest site.

“I think we’re the same as probably most any place, and hopefully the great thing is, we’re going to make some great changes here and make this place a lot better,” Pinkel said.

Pinkel told Kietzman the team missed only a couple meetings in preparation for playing BYU on Saturday night at Arrowhead Stadium.

“Most of the work we do starts on Tuesday mornings,” Pinkel said. “We didn’t miss very much at all.”

The Tigers did cancel Sunday’s practice after a team meeting that morning, a day after players announced the solidarity strike and a day before Wolfe’s resignation.

Wrapping up the at-times awkward interview, Kietzman asked whether there would ever be a time Pinkel offered his personal opinion about the historic events and the resignations of his bosses, Wolfe and Loftin, who were two of the most powerful administrators in the University of Missouri system.

“I’m doing what I’m doing,” Pinkel said.

After the interview, Pinkel canceled all his other regularly scheduled weekly radio appearances for the day.

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