As demonstrations began at the University of Missouri and later spread to other campuses across the U.S., a major component of the ensuing media coverage was the fact that much of the football team was involved in the protests. Sparking nationwide interest last month in the race-based grievances being expressed by the activists, one player published a tweet on behalf of “athletes of color,” explaining that they “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.”
While the protesters did get their wish when Wolfe stepped down from his post days later, one Republican state lawmaker is already looking ahead to prevent such a widespread campus disruption in the future.
Missouri state Rep. Rick Brattin recently introduced House bill 1743, which would rescind certain scholarships awarded to any student athlete “who calls, incites, supports, or participates in any strike or concerted refusal to play a scheduled game.”
In what is being interpreted by many as an indirect reference to Mizzou football coach Gary Pinkel, who supported the protesters on his team, Brattin’s proposal would also address relevant school staff. The bill would ensure that any member an athletic team’s coaching staff who “encourages or enables” such a protest “shall be fined by his or her institution of employment.”
Pinkel has since resigned from his coaching position, citing health reasons.
According to state Rep. Kurt Bahr, who is cosponsoring Brattin’s bill, he hopes this proposal sheds light on the dysfunctional way the university handles such disruptions.
“It is one thing for students to say we don’t like the coach or we don’t like the president,” he reasoned. “For them to threaten and say we want heads and to not fulfill their obligations is something that simply should not be tolerated.”
Though the proposal was panned by a number of critics, including some who saw its implementation as a detriment to the school’s future athletic recruitment, others found it commonsensical.
As one Twitter user wondered: “[W]hy would you want a player that would sit out for anything other than injury or personal ‘excused’ reasons?”