Missouri Legislator Proposes Revoking Scholarships From Student Athletes Who Protest

December 15, 2015  |  

If you thought the protests, the subsequent resignation of the president and chancellor and the election of a new, Black president were going to effectively end racism at the University of Missouri, you’d be mistaken.

That school, the state and the entire country has a ways to go before that’s a reality.

And if you don’t agree, you need look no further than the Republican legislator who’s proposed a law that would strip student athletes of their scholarships if they refuse to play a game for political reasons.

According to the Associated Press,  last week Republican Rep. Rick Brattin presented a bill to the Missouri House that would remove scholarships from any athlete who “calls, incites, supports or participates in any strike.” The bill also suggests that coaching staff also be fined for encouraging or enabling these student protests.

Brattin wasn’t immediately available for comment but the bill’s co-sponsor Rep. Kurt Bahr said his goal is to “show that some state lawmakers don’t approve of how University of Missouri administrators handled student unrest.” Bahr also said he hopes the bill fosters discussion between the legislature and university leadership.

Bahr continued, “…we, the General Assembly, expect the leadership of this state institution to actually lead and not allow the students to call the shots.”

For those of you who don’t remember, the University of Missouri gained national attention last month when, in response to racial tension on campus, Jonathan Butler and group of students, known as #ConcernedStudent1950 called for the resignation of University president Tim Wolfe. Butler’s efforts were bolstered by the university’s football team deciding not to play until Wolfe resigned.

Wolfe stepped down within a week. Former Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin also stepped down that day.

Brattin’s bill is not the only one that has been created in response to the protests on campus. Republican budget leaders have also said that state funding for the university would be under greater scrutiny during the next legislative season.

Well, if that’s not institutional racism I don’t know what is. Instead of addressing or responding to the racism that resulted in the protests, Republican lawmakers are attempting to silence freedom of speech by stripping away much-needed scholarships, ensuring that students who might not have other means of attending the University of Missouri would jeopardize their education and future careers if they use their positions of power as football players and speak out against injustice.

I’ve said before that the University of Missouri is my alma mater. I’m proud to have studied there and particularly proud of the students who have ushered in this rapid change. And since I’m still on the alumni list serve, I know what type of efforts they’re putting forth to make sure the school can begin to repair and rebuild its reputation. But, with the way the legislature is attempting to undermine basic, American freedoms for disenfranchised, underrepresented students, it looks like the road to improvement and equality will be a long, hard-fought one. And until that time, I can’t imagine many Black parents feeling comfortable entrusting their students to this institution and this state.

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