Mizzou players end strike, speak out following resignations - KMOV.com

Mizzou players end strike, speak out following resignations

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COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- While head coach Gary Pinkel and University of Missouri athletic director Mack Rhoades were addressing media members at the athletics training complex near Faurot Field, several members of the Mizzou Tigers football team were meeting with protest organizers in the MU Student Union on campus.

Just as the press conference was winding down, the players and a handful of students left the student center and walked the two blocks to the Concerned Student 1950 campsite in Tiger Plaza, opting to remain silent as they did so. Once on site, now largely empty as the sun began to set on campus, the players walked through the tents to the back and gathered in a circle. Media members were asked not to intrude as the players prepared their statement, and a line of organizers met any attempts to approach the group with refusal. After about 10 minutes, the players walked to the edge of the campsite and addressed the media with a prepared statement read by senior safety and team captain Ian Simon:

“Our main message is to distract from the narrative that has been out in the media. It's not about us, we just wanted to use our platform to take a stance for a fellow concerned student on an issue, especially being as though a fellow black man's life was on the line. Due to the end of the Hunger Strike, we will be ending our solidarity strike to not practice and returning to our normal schedule as football players. It is a privilege to be playing on the University of Missouri's Football Team and we are very thankful for this opportunity. We love the game, but in the end of the day, it is just that; a game. Through this experience, we've really begun to bridge that gap between student and athlete in the phrase ‘student-athlete’ by connecting with the community and realizing the bigger picture. We will continue to build with the community and support positive change on Mizzou's campus. Though we don't experience everything the general student body does and our struggles may look different at times, we are all #ConcernedStudent1950.”

Since the team publicly announced this weekend they were boycotting football activities until graduate student Jonathan Butler ended his hunger strike (a condition of which was the resignation of system president Tim Wolfe), the protests have gotten national media attention. With Mizzou’s scheduled game against BYU Saturday in jeopardy, along with more than a million dollars in penalties for forfeiting, pressure intensified for system administrators to act. Monday morning, Wolfe resigned at a 10a.m. press conference, and University of Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin announced he planned to resign his post at the end of 2015 later that afternoon.

“Let this testament to all other athletes across the country. You do have power,” said sophomore defensive end Charles Harris. “It started with a few individuals on our team, and look at what it has become. Look where it’s at right now. This is nationally known, and it started with a few.”  

While it may have started with a few players, by Sunday morning, the team had made a unified statement.

In a meeting at the athletic facilities, the team agreed to stand together on the strike.

“That was a great feeling. Knowing our coaching staff was behind us and our team was behind us, it was the best feeling,” said sophomore receiver J’Mon Moore. “For us to be able to come together in agreement and see that something as special as this is important in everyone’s eyes on our team is just a great feeling.”

Moore said there there was a slight concern as to whether or not the administration would be motivated enough to make a change in a response to the football team’s stance, but the team’s unity remained steadfast.

“A lot of places, a lot of so-called teams, are not teams. You have a lot of selfish players, a lot of ‘me’ players on some teams. But it’s a blessing to be able to be on a team where everyone is together,” he said. “We got some guts on this team.”

The Tigers will travel to Kansas City as scheduled and plan to take the field against BYU for their 6:30 p.m. game Saturday.

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