While never a fan of the Missouri Tigers, I commend Coach Gary Pinkel for standing with his Missouri football players and their decision to strike if certain student demands were not met in regard to the perceived lack of dialogue that seems to exist at the University of Missouri. I am just sorry that the team had to do it and impressed that football players once again prove that they are not just a group of “dumb jocks.” Even though I grew up during the protests of the late Sixties and early Seventies, I am not sure that I could have done it with a scholarship or a 3.1 million dollar contract on the line.
I am also sorry that Tim Wolfe was compelled to resign, whether by the school’s governing body or by big money boosters, but how can a university president turn a deaf ear to real or imagined reports of racial harassment and not investigate it? Am I missing something here? Why were protest from just “plain ole everyday students” and the faculty members ignored along with a student on a hunger strike? Why did a group of student-athletes, yes football players are student-athletes, have to provide the tipping point for this protest? With Ferguson a mere two hours away how could Tim Wolfe not have had a meeting or five? I am astounded. I am also astounded people believe these are nothing more than “Ferguson” agitators and should be ignored. Ignore is related to the word ignorant which is what you are if you think this is just going away if ignored. Nothing bad gets better being left alone.
A number of people have taken the attitude that student demands were only met because “money talks.” Of course that is the reason demands were met and that should not be an epiphany. Big Time College Football is a multi-million dollar endeavor and the most recognizable face of a university. A loss of a million dollars for one football game or a half-million dollars for one university president…you choose. I praise the football players for realizing they had collective power that could be used it to evoke, what is in my opinion, a needed change. I would also point out that all of this was done without violence.
These players are not the first athletes to use their position to aid social or political change and not the first to come under criticism for doing so. While on a larger scale, Jackie Robinson quietly breaking down color barriers in baseball, Muhammad Ali’s protest of the Viet Nam War or John Carlos’s and Tommy Smith’s “Black Power” protest during the 1968 Olympics are just a few that occurred during my life time and proved that one person or one group of people could cause positive change. I am happy that this generation’s youth, at least at the University of Missouri, have found something worthy to protest. For too long this generation has been portrayed as having no desire to do anything other than play video games and take selfies to be posted on social media.
Our underlying racism is not going change because of this any more than it changed because a flag was removed from a government building. At best dialogue will cause change in those willing to change and at worst…we continue down our rutted road toward self-destruction.