EDITOR’S NOTE: UPDATE, 11/9: University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe resigned Monday morning at a board of curators meeting in the wake of campus protests calling for him to step down.
On Saturday night, the black players on the University of Missouri’s football team—a team in the national-title hunt just two years ago—went on strike against racism. The strike has the potential to cost the Southeastern Conference football program millions of dollars, because the conditions for black students on campus have become simply unendurable.
Their demand is simple: They want school President Tim Wolfe to resign because of his inability to address a series of racist incidents on campus. So on Saturday night, as America gathered to watch the racist Donald Trump get free airtime on NBC, roughly 30 black Mizzou football players, some with their arms interlocked, sent out the following message: “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!!!!!” As one player who asked not to be named told me, “We see what’s happening here. We felt stupid saying and doing nothing while all this was going on around us. We want to be leaders on this because it affects us too.”
— HeMadeAKing (@1Sherrils_2MIZZ) November 8, 2015
The power of this action cannot be overstated. These football players have forced people to educate themselves about a campus environment that has been on fire for months, if not years. (Here is a timeline.) This year activists on campus have protested over the rights of adjunct professors, the cutting of healthcare benefits, the rolling back reproductive rights for women, and a hostile climate for students of color. And a recent series of ugly racist incidents led the football players to take collective action. For a team that two years ago stood in solidarity with teammate Michael Sam when he told the world he was gay, they again made the lionhearted decision to rise to the moment.