For weeks now, students and faculty at Missouri have been protesting what they have said is the administration’s failure to properly address a series of racial incidents, including the placement of human feces in the shape of a swastika on a college dorm wall. The media reported on some of those efforts, including a graduate student’s hunger strike against racism, sexism and other incidents on campus. And there were stories when Payton Head, the president of the Missouri students’ association, publicly addressed the fact that he had been the target of racist speech.
School leaders took note, but didn’t do much of anything until black football players got involved a few days ago, threatening to boycott games and all team events until the University of Missouri president, Tim Wolfe, resigned, which he did on Monday morning.
It isn’t hard to understand why the powers that be at the university finally took action to quell the rebellion; there’s a lot of money in football — in this case, at least $1 million was at stake if they had had to forfeit this weekend’s game.
Yet, it represents an act of bravery for these athletes to take a stand on a social justice cause. The vast majority of students at Missouri — 77 percent — are white, with blacks representing only 7 percent. But on the football team, 58 of the 84 scholarship players are African-American. If those players had chosen to boycott, the school likely would not have been able to field a team.
The players who protested stood to lose a lot if things hadn’t gone their way — and they couldn’t be assured that things would.
So, thanks to those Tigers who did the right thing by standing up at the right time to help their university acknowledge and start to address an insidious wrong. They’ve offered an important lesson for college athletes — and everyone else.