Approximately 30 of you made history today but I doubt you would congratulate yourselves.
University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe has been dismissed for his insensitivity and ineptitude. You’ve accomplished what you set out to do so I have no qualms about doing the congratulating myself.
The Shadow League’s mandate has been to document racism within the confines of the American experiment from the beginning, in sports specifically. It has always been our estimate that Black collegiate athletes have been on the bottom of a Ponzi scheme that only benefited people of elite standing and their friends within systems such as the University of Missouri and society at large.
You were lured to Colombia, Missouri with hopes of earning a degree while competing against equally gifted athletes. That is considerable seeing as though you now compete in the SEC. It’s obvious the vast majority of you will not play professional football, and those that do will won’t last long, particularly as the NFL’s secondary acronym is "Not For Long." In return for helping the University of Missouri's athletic department rake in hundreds of millions of dollars over the span of its advent, most of you either get the chance to earn a degree that is proving to be increasingly irrelevant for many college graduates, deferred dreams of playing professionally and the chance for chronic muscular, skeletal and brain injuries that would in effect prematurely age you.
Not a fair trade.
Indeed, you are not the first group of Black football players who tried to use their standing to push for change. In 1969, 14 Black players for the University of Wyoming wanted to wear wrist bands to protest the racial polices of Brigham Young University and the Church of Latter-day Saints. They were summarily dismissed by then Head Coach Lloyd Eaton. The school was ranked 12th in the nation and was 4-0 at the time. After the players were kicked off the team, Wyoming lost its last four games of the season and were 1-9 the next year.
There has been a tradition of resistance to white supremacy within the United States for almost its entire life span. In time those voices multiplied. From Jamestown through the presidency of Obama, there have been those who have stepped to the forefront to point out injustices; both within particular institutions and the greater society as well. I cannot help but wonder what student activist Jonathan Butler said which convinced the part of your number to become the focal point of student rebellion against the callous handling of racial bigotry amongst the populous of the University of Missouri.
The list of events is disgusting. A swastika made of human feces smeared on a college dorm’s wall, students chanting down student Missouri Students Association President Payton Head, with chants of “n*gger, n*gger” while riding on the back of a pickup truck and the empty reaction that came from the head of the university are indicative of many universities that field big-time college football teams.
There’s no doubt in my mind that minority students are regularly taunted, bullied or otherwise negatively affected by bigoted members of the greater racial majority at these schools. I am also certain that minority members from said university's myriad of athletics teams have witnessed said situations, or have personally been imposed upon by these acts, yet did and said nothing. A noose found at Duke University, swastikas at other schools, white fraternities hosting black face parties throughout the country on an annual basis.
But not a single word ever spoken by the overwhelming majority of athletes from Africa descended backgrounds.
It’s not beyond comprehension to surmise that their lack of voice stemmed from fear of retaliation from their respective institutions or even having their professional athletic opportunities negatively affected in some way. There may even be a percentage of individuals who are simply not equipped to address bigotry because they don’t see it as such. Maybe they see it as an isolated experience or simply feel that doing so would not be fair to their teammates or fellow students. All of which are irrelevant to reality.
Indeed, there were many on the Missouri Tigers football team, both Black and White, who felt as if they had been betrayed by those who stood up. But it appears it is they who were the betrayers, choosing sports over the mental, physical and emotional well-being of their fellow students and teammates of African descent. Since the initial announcement of graduate student Jonathan L. Butler’s hunger strike and your willingness to sacrifice athletic glory for the greater good, the entire athletic department banded together under the leadership of Athletic Director Mack Rhoades and head football coach Gary Pinkle in support of your stance and that resolve was steeled by the ground swell of support that came from the majority of the rest of the student body via protest.
You inspired Mizzou Nation to say something that so few of their contemporaries at other large institutions are willing to say. Saying, in no uncertain terms, the concerns of Black people matter to us. The reasons why Black people matter to them collectively isn’t as important as the fact that you got them to acknowledge your right to co-exist among them with dignity.
“Money, Power, Respect” was a common phrase used in many urban locales throughout the 90s and was immortalized by rapper Lil’ Kim in a song of the same name. The belief was that the ability to manipulate monetary transactions in a capitalist society equals power, and with that power came respect. Respect does not mean that individuals have to agree with your stance; however, your willingness to affect the bottom line of your supposed benefactors is demonstrative of untapped power realized.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said the move was necessary to promote “healing and reconciliation”. Whether genuine or not, his recognition of the validity of your deeds shows you are capable of wielding that power to have grievances of others addressed. That is worthy of respect.
Congratulations on your epiphany and good luck on the rest of the season.