Missouri Tigers Football Team in the Middle of Racial Tension in Columbia

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

You’re not going to get anywhere with petitions. Contrary to those shows you used to watch in middle school, you aren’t really going to get anywhere with sit-ins, either. If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not going to change. And if you can’t take the pain, was it really worth it to you in the first place? For 25-year-old graduate student, Jonathan Butler, his pain is, in every way, worth it.

Racial tension in Columbia, Missouri has been brewing for quite awhile, but after recent incidents, Butler decided that it was finally time to take a stand. Jonathan Butler has been on a hunger strike since last Sunday, and says that he has no plans to stop until the university’s president, Tim Wolffe, steps down. Once the higher powers of Mizzou got word of this, they knew they had to make a statement. Here’s what the Chancellor of the University of Missouri said about Butler’s protest:

“My heart is heavy, and I join with other members of the Mizzou family in sharing concern for the health and well-being of one of us—Jonathan Butler. Mr. Butler is a person of principle who is dedicated to raising awareness of and finding solutions for the pernicious problems of racism, discrimination and bias. While I cannot encourage him to put his health at risk, I support his right to peaceful protest and his efforts to raise awareness of the injustice that he and other people of color face in their everyday lives and at the university.”  For further quotes, visit the chancellor’s page on the university website: http://chancellor.missouri.edu/news/hunger-strike/

Chancellor Loftin went on to agree with Butler that racial tension is an issue in Columbia, and that they needed to do a better job at making the climate there suitable for everyone. Jonathan Butler was quoted saying, “I already feel like the campus is an unavailable space, so it’s worth sacrificing this grave amount, because I’m already not wanted here. I’m already not treated like I’m a human.”

Not only is a student taking a stand for something he believes in, people with a much bigger impact are taking a stand as well. Athletes of color on the Tigers’ football team have decided not to participate in football activities until drastic changes are made. These players include key members like Russell Hansbrough, Aarion Penton, Kentrell Brothers, and many others. Should the Tigers not be able to play on Saturday, it would cost the team/university a million dollars, as stated in the contract with the BYU Cougars.The team has also issued a list of demands. These demands basically say that they want Tim Wolffe to resign from presidency, they want the campus to be better suited for black students, and they want more people of color hired to do so. 

It’s such a huge risk for any athlete to hold out from football activities in college. They all have so much at risk, and could very easily lose the scholarships they were offered. But again: If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not going to change. And if you can’t handle the pain, was it really worth it in the first place? It’s time for change at the University of Missouri, and it shouldn’t really take these extreme measures to make it happen, it’s the 21st century. But good on the Missouri Football team and Jonathan Butler for taking a stand, and realizing that this issue goes way beyond sports. Maybe demanding the president of the university be fired is a bit much, but the end goal should still be the same: