MU football boycott shows clout, unique existence of black athletes

Black members of the University of Missouri football team announced their boycott via Twitter on Nov. 7. | Courtesy of Anthony Sherrils/Twitter
Black members of the University of Missouri football team posed for a photo with Concerned Student 1950 protestor Jonathan Butler when they announced their boycott via Twitter on Nov. 7. | Courtesy of Anthony Sherrils/Twitter

On Nov. 4, University of Missouri football player J’Mon Moore was driving through the Columbia campus when a cluster of tents on the Mel Carnahan Quadrangle caught his eye. He parked his car and made his way to the encampment, where he visited with members of the student activist group Concerned Student 1950.

The students were protesting racism on campus and calling for the resignation of University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe. One member of the group, graduate student Jonathan Butler, had started a hunger strike, refusing to eat until Wolfe was no longer president.

Moore said he “made some promises” to Butler. Three days later, Moore and 29 other black Missouri football players announced they were boycotting football-related activities until Wolfe resigned.

Within 48 hours, Wolfe and MU chancellor R. Bowen Loftin had both stepped down, and Moore and his teammates had provided evidence of the considerable clout that black student-athletes in the so-called revenue sports — football and basketball — wield in today’s world of big-money collegiate athletics.

Black athletes often lead an existence different from that of most college students — both because of their race and their status as athletes. These differences have made black athletes influential but often unwilling to speak out.

But, according to organized labor experts, the actions of Missouri’s football players represented big strides for athlete activism. Their ultimatum expedited the departure of two university administrators and provided a lesson in leverage that other teams can follow.

Read more from the Columbia Missourian


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