The Power of Athletes

– Jordan Osborne (Defiance, OH)

When the University of Missouri’s football team boycotted all football and all activities involving the sport, the entire country paid attention to what was really going on. Since the beginning of the 2015-16 school years, the campus has experienced several racist incidents.

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  • September 12- Payton Head, president of the Missouri Students Association, wrote on Facebook about how he had racial slurs yelled at him on campus.
  • September 24- Students held a “Racism Lives Here” rally to draw attention to how it took the university six days to respond to the incident from the Facebook post.
  • October 1- The second Racism Lives Here rally to demand a more active stance to be taken by the administration.
  • October 5- An intoxicated man yelled racial slurs at members of the Legion of Black Collegians while they were rehearsing for a play.
  • October 10- During the homecoming parade, a group of 11 students stood in front of President Wolfe’s car. A protester was bumped with the car and then police removed protesters and threatened arrest to those protesting.
  • October 20- A list of demands was issued by the Concerned Student 1950 (the name of the main group of protesters on campus). This list called for President Wolfe to be fired and for diversity training to be increased on campus. Protesters also wanted the university staff to have a broader representation of minorities.
  • October 24- A swastika was drawn in feces on a wall in a bathroom in a residence hall.
  • October 26- Wolfe met with Concerned Student 1950. Wolfe did not commit to a plan based on the demands made by the group.
  • November 2- Jonathon Butler began a hunger strike that he said would end with either his death or Wolfe’s removal from office.

The attention that has been brought to these more recent incidents regarding race led to others speaking out about incidents that have happened in Missouri University’s history. Professor Cynthia Frisby spoke out about how she was called racial slurs by a white man. A post on Yik Yak had written “Let’s burn down the black culture center & give them a taste of their own medicine.”

A group of black players on the Mizzou football team declared they were protesting all football activities until Wolfe was removed from office. This declaration supported Butler’s hunger strike. They posted this picture with a caption saying “The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe ‘Injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere,’” the group said in a statement. “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’ experience. WE ARE UNITED!!!!!” The next day Coach Gary Pinkel stood behind his striking players and stated that the entire team would stand united with the protest. The Mizzou athletic department announced that the team would have no practice or formal activities until Butler began to eat again.

Several state legislators, including state Senator Kurt Schaefer, House Higher Education Chairman Steve Cookson and Assistant House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty all agreed the President Wolfe needed to step down. Soon after the football team announced their protest, President Wolfe resigned at a board of curators meeting. He took full responsibility for not taking action to handle the issues on campus. The football team then released a statement saying they would return to football related activities.

Athletes make up a large population of America and college campuses. Especially here at Defiance, most of the student population is in fact athletes. The ratio of athletes to non-athletes gives power to the athletes, allowing athletes to have a large voice. As athletes, there is a responsibility to be a role model and to set an example. Athletes have a voice that should be used to better the world. As an athlete here at Defiance College, the bar of expectations should be held higher, the goal of being an athlete at this level should be to become role models in society and take steps to make the world a better place to live.

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