Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
African-American members of the Missouri football team are going on strike from football-related activities in support of Jonathan Butler, a Missouri graduate student currently refusing to eat until UM system president Tim Wolfe is removed from office.
More than 30 black members of the Missouri football team posed with Butler in a photo tweeted Saturday by the Legion of Black Collegians. Team captain Russell Hansbrough was among those locked arms with Butler in the photo.
Accompanying the photo was a statement: “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!!!!!”
Among the players pictured are seniors Ian Simon (also a team captain), Kentrell Brothers and Clarence Green, juniors Aarion Penton, John Gibson and Rickey Hatley, sophomores Anthony Sherrils, Ish Witter, Charles Harris, Jason Reese, Nate Brown, and Chase Abbington and freshmen Cam Hilton, Marvin Zanders and DeSean Blair.
Missouri released a statement Saturday night, saying “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.”
Of the 65 players listed on Missouri’s depth chart for last Thursday night’s game against Mississippi State, 43 are black.
Missouri is scheduled to play BYU next Saturday night at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.
Butler’s hunger strike began at 9 a.m. Monday in protest of Wolfe and his response to recent racially motivated events on Missouri’s campus. Butler cited a swastika being drawn in feces on the wall of a residence hall, racial epithets being directed at Missouri Students Association president Payton Head on campus and students being threatened with pepper spray at a protest during Missouri’s Homecoming parade.
“During this hunger strike, 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 also condemned the university’s discontinuation of Planned Parenthood services and graduate student health insurance — the latter of which the university decided to reinstate.
Wolfe released a statement Friday, apologizing for his handling of the Homecoming protest: “My behavior seemed like I did not care. That was not my intention. I was caught off guard in that moment.” Wolfe said in the statement he had met with Butler and he was concerned with his health. He also acknowledged the existence of racism at the university, calling it a “long-standing, systemic problem.”
Tuesday, 26 members of the university’s Department of English gave a vote of no-confidence in chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, who has also received criticism for his handling of recent events.