By Kyle Taylor, columnist
The University of Missouri (Mizzou) football team snapped a four-game losing streak at home this Saturday by trumping Brigham Young University following its hectic week in the spotlight. Two weeks have passed since the president of Mizzou, Timothy Wolfe, stepped down after the team decided to boycott practices and games amid Wolfe’s refusal to address racial issues on the campus.
The initial shock and awe has now come to a close. An issue that was previously ignored has been pushed to the forefront, and two students have been arrested due to racial threats made on social media app Yik Yak. For a brief time, people from various ethnicities, ages and levels of education were united behind the issue of subtle but pervasive bias raised by Concerned Student 1950, an on-campus group.
To many, the resignation of Wolfe and a formal apology from the university would symbolize that the battle was won and peaceful protesting from students and faculty as a whole had triumphed. This, however, is not the whole story. Events at Mizzou rose to mild publicity at the start of October when Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin created a video saying, “We are a part of the same family, you don’t hate your family… Enough is enough. Stop it now,” in response to racial slurs toward members of the Legion of Black Collegians (LBC).
After weeks of protesting and failed attempts at gaining Wolfe’s attention, the students of Concerned Student 1950 called for his resignation on Oct. 20 due to his apparent disinterest with the safety and issues concerning students of color.
He did not resign when prompted by students, nor did he resign when Jonathan Butler, a graduate student, began his hunger strike on Nov. 2 in protest. Demonstrations continued every day with little to no effect. Then, players on the Mizzou football team refused to participate in any activities, including practices and games, and the president and the entire university had their backs against the wall.
Wolfe released statements prior to the football team’s action saying he would not resign but instead work with the school to find a compromise. It was only when the issue became more than just about racism among the students that the administration and governing members of the school were forced to confront this issue and act.
It became about money.
Every game the players did not play would be money out of the school’s pocket. Between ticket sales and alumni distaste, Mizzou could no longer afford to turn a blind eye and wait for the situation to burn out. The day after the team stood united against acts of racism and against the president, Wolfe resigned following an emergency meeting called by the governing members of the school.
A call for resignation that lasted weeks ended a mere 24 hours after the football team refused to play. I firmly believe that the emergency meeting held between the governing members of the school and Wolfe was brought on due to the fact that the football team stood up. I say this not to take away the importance of everyone who joined the cause and showed their solidarity, especially Butler and anyone else who fought adversity head-on at Mizzou. I just want to draw attention to the fact that it became a true problem when the cause threatened Mizzou’s income, not just black students, who make up about 7 percent of the university demographic.
These events show that athletes can be powerful advocates since they are heavily covered in the media. Recently, athletes have advocated for the #BlackLivesMatter campaign, as well as #PrayForParis and other causes.
I commend the Mizzou football team for standing up and making a difference. We need more athletes and others with influence to be willing to make their voices heard beyond the field of play.
It is important to remember, however, that it was not solely the athletes. The actions by many people of all colors and positions at Mizzou joined in the fight against blatant acts of racism, worked to illuminate these issues and refused to remain silent. They are the ones who, with the help of the athletes, were able to speak with one, united voice against the threat to their safe space. All of their bravery should be commended, but winning the battle does not put an end to the war.
– Kyle Taylor can be reached at Sports@HuntNewsNU.com.