Most of the University of Missouri football team said they will not participate in team activities until university President Tim Wolfe leaves office.
The team’s coach, Gary Pinkel, tweeted that he supports the team. “The Mizzou Family stands as one,” he wrote. “We are united. We are behind our players.”
— Coach Gary Pinkel (@GaryPinkel) November 8, 2015
But the university on Sunday said Wolfe will not resign.
“I am dedicated to ongoing dialogue to address these very complex, societal issues as they affect our campus community,” he said in a statement.
It started when several black members of the team announced the decision to strike on social media Saturday night. Missouri’s Legion of Black Collegians issued a statement on behalf of the team, saying the team members would boycott practices and games until Wolfe is terminated. According to ESPN, more than 30 team members have said they would boycott.
Wolfe is accused of not doing a good enough job at handling racial harassment at the university. In the past three months, there have been several controversial incidents, including one in September when a black student said he was racially abused while walking, and students have complained the university didn’t address the matter for nearly a week.
In October, a student yelled a racial epithet at members of the Legion of Black Collegians. Later in the month, someone smeared fecal matter in the shape of a swastika on a school bathroom wall.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon also issued a statement about the boycott and racism at the school.
“Racism and intolerance have no place at the University of Missouri or anywhere in our state,” he said. “Our colleges and universities must be havens of trust and understanding. These concerns must be addressed to ensure the University of Missouri is a place where all students can pursue their dreams in an environment of respect, tolerance and inclusion.”
Team running back Russell Hansbrough tweeted Saturday that black athletes on the team “will no longer participate in an football related activities until President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed due to his negligence toward marginalized students’ experiences.”
In once incident that involved Wolfe, students with the ConcernedStudent1950 blocked a car carrying during the homecoming parade on Oct. 20. Local newspaper the Columbia Missourian reported that protesters blocked the car for 15 minutes and listed their demands and tried to speak with Wolfe.
In a “long overdue” statement Nov. 6, Wolfe issued an apology, saying his “behavior seemed like I did not care” during the homecoming parade. “That was not my intention. I was caught off guard in the moment.”
“I am asking us to move forward in addressing the racism that exists at our university—and it does exist,” he said. “Together we must rise to the challenge of combatting racism, injustice, and intolerance.”
Wolfe also said a draft plan to address a diversity and inclusion was originally meant to be announced in April 2016. The plan will try to tackle many of the concerns of students at the college.
In the meantime, a black student has been on a hunger strike for nearly a week, calling for Wolfe to step down.
“My body feels like it’s on fire,” Jonathan L. Butler, 25, told The Washington Post on Thursday. “I have pain all over. I’m exhausted. Of course, I’m hungry. I’ve got an ongoing headache.”
Butler said that he’s just drinking water, with no vitamins or any food.
“I already feel like campus is an unlivable space,” said Butler. “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.”