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Sportsballers Force Mizzou President Out, Ending Racism Forever (If It Ever Existed)
And yes, the coaches walked out too. Impressive.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed college sportsball players can change the world. In response to protests over his inaction following a number of racist incidents, University of Missouri president Tim Wolfe resigned Monday morning. While he hadn't yet been moved by a black graduate student's hunger strike, he appears to have become a bit more motivated when most of the university's football team announced Saturday that they would not practice or play until the graduate student, Jonathan Butler, ended his hunger strike.
The Missouri campus has been the site of several outbreaks of open racism, including the school's African-American student association president having racial slurs yelled at him by a white motorist, a black theater group being treated to the same racial slurs from "an inebriated white male” while rehearsing a play, and a swastika smeared in feces on a dormitory's wall. It was the swastika incident that prompted Butler to start his hunger strike on November 2.
“I already feel like campus is an unlivable space,” said Butler, who is African American. “So it’s worth sacrificing something of this grave amount, because I’m already not wanted here. I’m already not treated like I’m a human.”
African-American students had been protesting the racial atmosphere at the university for months, following the shooting of Michael Brown in 2014 and the growing Black Lives Matter protests; the protests have been led by a group called Concerned Student 1950 (yes, singular), after the year the first black student was admitted to the university. Even before Butler's hunger strike, black student protestors had blocked Wolfe's car for over fifteen minutes during the school's Homecoming parade October 10; he refused to get out and speak to any of the students, who were eventually hauled off by police.
As recently as this weekend, Wolfe would only say "change is needed" and said the university would draft a plan to promote greater diversity -- by April. The walkout of the football team -- which was supported by head Coach Gary Pinkel -- and a planned walkout Monday by faculty and students appear to have finally gotten Wolfe's attention. Canceling this weekend's f'ball game with Brigham Young would have cost Mizzou upwards of a million dollars.
Speaking to the university's Board of Curators Monday morning, Wolfe unexpectedly announced his resignation.
“I am resigning as president of the University Missouri system,” said Wolfe, who choked up as he announced he was stepping down. “My motivation in making this decision comes from a love of Columbia where I grew up and the state of Missouri. I thought and prayed over this decision. It is the right thing to do … The frustration and anger I see is real and I don’t doubt it for a second.” [...]
“I take full responsibility for what has occurred," Wolfe said.
In what might have been karma or just an extra bit of schadenfreude -inducing coincidence, the Boston Globe reports that even Wolfe's resignation announcement didn't go off smoothly:
A poor audio feed for the one board member who was attending the meeting via conference call left Wolfe standing awkwardly at the podium for nearly three minutes after only being able to read the first sentence of his statement.
Wolfe added that he hoped students and faculty would "use my resignation to heal and start talking again to make the changes necessary."
Shortly after Wolfe's announcement, Jonathan Butler announced on Facebook that "The #MizzouHungerStrike is over!!!!!!!!!!!!!" That's probably about the right number of exclamation points for the news, assuming the university takes concrete steps to improve the situation. Certainly there's no chance rightwing idiots will complain that the students had no legitimate concerns or that Wolfe's resignation is an example of political correctness run amok, and certainly no idiots will send death threats to coach Pinkel for politicizing f'ball. After all, there are serous problems in the world, like Starbucks insulting Jesus with plain red-and-green coffee cups.
Happily, now that there's no more racism in Missouri anymore, the football team can return to practice and everything can get back to normal. And who knows, maybe the Mizzou team has found a way to affect racial issues in a larger way. Perhaps if all black athletes were to threaten to take a few consecutive Sundays off, we'd see some changes? For too many whites, black lives still don't matter -- but F'ball definitely does.