Republican wants to strip striking college athletes of scholarships after Mizzou football protest over racism
A Republican lawmaker in the Missouri House of Representatives has proposed a bill that aims to strip scholarships from college athletes who refuse to play for non-health related issues.
The bill comes a month after University of Missouri president Tim Wolfe resigned under pressure from students and activists over a lack of responsiveness to racist incidents on campus. The university’s football team had said it would refuse to play until Wolfe stepped down .
The bill sponsors didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. But one of the sponsors, state rep Kurt Bahr, told the Columbian Missourian the bill was “obviously in reaction to the athletes who were saying they weren’t going to play to what they considered to be social issues on campus”.
“I don’t think that is an appropriate response on their part,” Bahr said.
According to the pre-filed bill, if enacted, any “college athlete who calls, incites, supports, or participates in any strike or concerted refusal to play a scheduled game shall have his or her scholarship revoked”. Additionally, the bill continues, “any member of a coaching staff who encourages or enables a college athlete to engage in behavior” prohibited under the bill “shall be fined by his or her institution of employment”.
The bill’s sponsor, state rep Rick Brattin, proposed to have legislation enacted by August 2016, prior to the start of next year’s college football season .
The university doesn’t receive state funds to operate athletic programs, according to the University of Missouri’s student-athlete handbook . “[T]hus, similar to private business, the Mizzou Athletics Department must operate solely from what revenue it generates,” the handbook states.
Ian Simon, a former member of the Missouri football team who led the boycott, blasted the legislation, saying : “They want to call us student athletes. But they keep us out of the student part of it. I’m more than just a football player … As soon as we’re done playing at the University of Missouri, the University of Missouri does not care about us anymore. We are not their responsibility … Our sport is just a small part of who we are.”
In early November, students began levying criticism against Wolfe for his handling of racist incidents on campus. The protests drew significant attention after Jonathan Butler, a 25-year-old graduate student, announced he would go on a hunger strike, in response to the racially-charged incidents, until Wolfe resigned. The football team’s coach, Gary Pinkel, said the decision to boycott stemmed from Butler’s hunger strike.
“I got a call about Jonathan and the players were very, very concerned with his life,” Pinkel said at the time. “I did the right thing and I would do it again.”
Bahr told the Columbian Missourian he’s unsure how the bill could be enforced and has never read the student-athlete handbook.
It’s unclear how the bill will be received by Missouri lawmakers. At the time of the football team’s announcement, Missouri governor Jay Nixon said administrators must act to address concerns over “racism and intolerance”.
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