University of Missouri protests grow after athletes jump in

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Mizzou Football Players Boycott For President's Resignation


COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Long-simmering protests at the University of Missouri over matters of race and discrimination got a boost over the weekend when at least 30 black football players announced they will not participate in team activities until the university system's president is removed.

For months, black student groups have complained of racial slurs and other slights on the overwhelmingly white, 35,000-student flagship campus of the four-college system. Frustrations flared during a homecoming parade Oct. 10 when black protesters blocked system President Tim Wolfe's car and he would not get out and talk to them. They were removed by police.

On Saturday night, black members of the football team joined the outcry. By Sunday, a campus sit-in had grown in size, graduate student groups planned walkouts, politicians began to weigh in, and a special meeting of the university system's governing body was set for Monday morning in Columbia.

Wolfe hasn't indicated he has any intention of stepping down, but agreed in a statement Sunday that "change is needed" and said the university is working to draw up a plan by April to promote diversity and tolerance.

The athletes did not say explicitly whether they would boycott the team's three remaining games this season. The Tigers' next game is Saturday against Brigham Young University at Arrowhead Stadium, the home of the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs, and canceling it could cost the school more than $1 million.

"The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe 'Injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere,'" the players said in a statement. "We will no longer participate in any football related activities until President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed due to his negligence toward marginalized students' experience. WE ARE UNITED!!!!!"

Head football coach Gary Pinkel expressed solidarity on Twitter, posting a picture of the team and coaches locking arms. The tweet said: "The Mizzou Family stands as one. We are united. We are behind our players."

Practice and other team activities were canceled Sunday, Pinkel and Missouri athletic director Mack Rhoades said in a joint statement. The statement linked the return of the protesting football players to the end of a hunger strike by a black graduate student who began the effort Nov. 2 and has vowed to not eat until Wolfe is gone.

"Our focus right now is on the health of Jonathan Butler, the concerns of our student-athletes and working with our community to address this serious issue," the statement said.

University of Missouri protests against discrimination on campus:

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Missouri football protests, racial tensions
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University of Missouri protests grow after athletes jump in
University of Missouri students circle tents on the Carnahan Quadrangle, locking arms to prevent media from entering the space following the resignation of President Timothy W. Wolfe on Monday, Nov. 9, 2015. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS via Getty Images)
Student protesters on the campus of the University of Missouri in Columbia react to news of the resignation of University of Missouri system President Tim Wolfe on Monday, Nov. 9, 2015. Wolfe resigned under pressure from student protesters who claimed the president had not done enough to address recent racially-motivated incidents on the campus. (David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)
A woman passes a tent encampment set up by student protesters following an announcement that University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe is resigning Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, at the university in Columbia, Mo. Wolfe resigned Monday with the football team and others on campus in open revolt over his handling of racial tensions at the school. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
FILE - In this Friday, April 11, 2014, file photo, University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe participates in a news conference in Rolla, Mo. Missouri football players announced Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, on Twitter that they will not participate in team activities until the university president is removed from office. The move aligns the team with campus groups who have been protesting the way Wolfe has dealt with issues of racial harassment during the school year. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)
COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 9: Jonathan Butler, a University of Missouri grad student who did a 7 day hunger strike is greeted by the crowd of students on the campus of University of Missouri - Columbia on November 9, 2015 in Columbia, Missouri. Students celebrate the resignation of University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe amid allegations of racism. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 9: Members of Concerned Student 1950 celebrate after the resignation of Missouri University president Timothy M. Wolfe on the Missouri University Campus November 9, 2015 in Columbia, Missouri. Wolfe resigned after pressure from students and student athletes over his perceived insensitivity to racism on the university campus. (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 9: Protesters celebrate the resignation resignation of Missouri University president Timothy M. Wolfe on the Missouri University Campus November 9, 2015 in Columbia, Missouri. Wolfe resigned after pressure from students and student athletes over his perceived insensitivity to racism on the university campus. (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images)
Jonathan Butler, front left, addresses a crowd following the announcement that University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe would resign Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, at the university in Columbia, Mo. Butler has ended his hunger strike as a result of the resignation. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 9: Tents remain on the Mel Carnahan quad on the campus of University of Missouri - Columbia on November 9, 2015 in Columbia, Missouri. University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe resigned today amid protests over racial tensions at the university. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
Students celebrate following University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe's resignation announcement Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, at the school in Columbia, Mo. The president resigned Monday with the football team and others on campus in open revolt over his handling of racial tensions at the school. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 9: Students embrace one another during a forum on the campus of University of Missouri - Columbia on November 9, 2015 in Columbia, Missouri. Students celebrate the resignation of University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe amid allegations of racism. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
Students stand in a tent encampment set up by protesters following an announcement that University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe is resigning Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, at the university in Columbia, Mo. Wolfe resigned Monday with the football team and others on campus in open revolt over his handling of racial tensions at the school. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 9: A protester celebrates after the resignation resignation of Missouri University president Timothy M. Wolfe on the Missouri University Campus November 9, 2015 in Columbia, Missouri. Wolfe resigned after pressure from students and student athletes over his perceived insensitivity to racism on the university campus. (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images)
A student claps while standing in a protest movement's camp area following the announcement that University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe is stepping down Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, at the university in Columbia, Mo. Wolfe resigned Monday with the football team and others on campus in open revolt over his handling of racial tensions at the school. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 9: Jonathan Butler (c), a University of Missouri grad student who did a 7 day hunger strike listens along with founding members of the campus group, Concerned Student 1950, during a forum speaking to students on the campus of University of Missouri - Columbia on November 9, 2015 in Columbia, Missouri. Students celebrate the resignation of University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe amid allegations of racism. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 9: Protesters celebrate the resignation resignation of Missouri University president Timothy M. Wolfe on the Missouri University Campus November 9, 2015 in Columbia, Missouri. Wolfe resigned after pressure from students and student athletes over his perceived insensitivity to racism on the university campus. (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images)
Students dance following University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe's resignation announcement Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, at the school in Columbia, Mo. The president resigned Monday with the football team and others on campus in open revolt over his handling of racial tensions at the school. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
In this Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, photo, members of the Legion of Black Collegians and the Concerned Student 1950 supporters gather outside the Reynolds Alumni Center after an emotional protest on the University of Missouri campus, in Columbia, Mo. Some campus groups have been protesting the way university president Tim Wolfe has dealt with issues of racial harassment during the school year. Jonathan Butler, a black graduate student, is on a hunger strike to call attention to the issue. Missouri football players announced Saturday night on Twitter that they will not participate in team activities until the university president is removed from office. (Ellise Verheyen/Missourian via AP) 
In this Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, photo, a member of Concerned Student 1950 hugs a fellow protestor after the group prayed together in front of the Reynolds Alumni Center on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia, Mo. Some campus groups have been protesting the way university president Tim Wolfe has dealt with issues of racial harassment during the school year. Jonathan Butler, a black graduate student, is in the sixth day of a hunger strike, on Sunday, to call attention to the issue. Missouri football players announced Saturday night on Twitter that they will not participate in team activities until the university president is removed from office. (Sarah Bell/Missourian via AP)
In this Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, photo, members of the anti-racism and black awareness group Concerned Student 1950 embrace during a protest in the Reynolds Alumni Center on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia, Mo. Some campus groups have been protesting the way university president Tim Wolfe has dealt with issues of racial harassment during the school year. Jonathan Butler, a black graduate student, is in the sixth day of a hunger strike, on Sunday, to call attention to the issue. Missouri football players announced Saturday night on Twitter that they will not participate in team activities until the university president is removed from office. (Ellise Verheyen/Missourian via AP)
Missouri tight end Jason Reese, right, speaks with members of the media after leaving the Mizzou Athletics Training Complex on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015, in Columbia, Mo. Student protests over racial incidents on the campus escalated over the weekend when some football players announced they will not participate in team activities until the school's president is removed. (Nick Schnelle/Columbia Daily Tribune via AP) 
Former Missouri receiver L'Damian Washington, left, speaks with tailback Russell Hansbrough and other football players outside of the Mizzou Athletics Training Complex on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015, in Columbia, Mo. Student protests over racial incidents on the campus escalated over the weekend when some football players announced they will not participate in team activities until the school's president is removed. (Nick Schnelle/Columbia Daily Tribune via AP) 
In this Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, photo, a member of Concerned Student 1950 films a protest in Mark Twain Dining Hall on University of Missouri campus, in Columbia, Mo. Some campus groups have been protesting the way university president Tim Wolfe has dealt with issues of racial harassment during the school year. Jonathan Butler, a black graduate student, is in the sixth day of a hunger strike to call attention to the issue. Missouri football players announced Saturday night on Twitter that they will not participate in team activities until the university president is removed from office. (Sarah Bell/Missourian via AP) 
In this Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, photo, members of the Concerned Student 1950 and the Legion of Black Collegians link arms during a protest in Mark Twain Dining Hall the University of Missouri campus, in Columbia, Mo. Some campus groups have been protesting the way university president Tim Wolfe has dealt with issues of racial harassment during the school year. Jonathan Butler, a black graduate student, is on a hunger strike to call attention to the issue. Missouri football players announced Saturday night on Twitter that they will not participate in team activities until the university president is removed from office. (Sarah Bell/Missourian via AP) 
Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin speaks with Concerned Student 1950 supporter Ayanna Poole on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015, as he meets with demonstrators camped out at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo. Student protests over racial incidents on the campus escalated over the weekend when some football players announced they will not participate in team activities until the school's president is removed. (Nick Schnelle/Columbia Daily Tribune via AP) 
In this Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, photo, members of the University of Missouri's Legion of Black Collegians and the Concerned Student 1950 supporters react after an on-campus protest, in Columbia, Mo. Some campus groups have been protesting the way university president Tim Wolfe has dealt with issues of racial harassment during the school year. Jonathan Butler, a black graduate student, is on a hunger strike to call attention to the issue. Missouri football players announced Saturday night on Twitter that they will not participate in team activities until the university president is removed from office. (Ellise Verheyen/Missourian via AP)
In this Oct. 1, 2015 photo, Jonathan Butler chants with other students during an anti-racism demonstration inside the University of Missouri Student Center in Columbia, Mo. Butler began his hunger strike on Nov. 2 to call attention to racial problems at the state's flagship university. (Daniel Brenner/Columbia Daily Tribune via AP)
In this Aug. 26, 2015 photo, Jonathan Butler uses a megaphone during a "day of action" demonstration to draw attention to graduate students' demands in front of Jesse Hall on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia, Mo. Butler began his hunger strike on Nov. 2 to call attention to racial problems at the state's flagship university. (Daniel Brenner/Columbia Daily Tribune via AP)
In this Aug. 26, 2015 photo, Jonathan Butler uses a megaphone to encourage others to chant during a "day of action" demonstration celebrating graduate students and draw attention to their demands near the columns on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia, Mo. Butler began his hunger strike on Nov. 2 to call attention to racial problems at the state's flagship university. (Daniel Brenner/Columbia Daily Tribune via AP)
In this Aug. 26, 2015 photo, Jonathan Butler uses a megaphone to encourage others to stand and chant during a "day of action" celebrating graduate students and draw attention to their demands in Traditions Plaza on the University of Missouri campus, in Columbia, Mo. Butler began his hunger strike on Nov. 2 to call attention to racial problems at the state's flagship university. (Daniel Brenner/Columbia Daily Tribune via AP) 
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The protests began after the student government president, who is black, said in September that people in a passing pickup truck shouted racial slurs at him. In early October, members of a black student organization said slurs were hurled at them by an apparently drunken white student.

Also, a swastika drawn in feces was found recently in a dormitory bathroom.

Many of the protests have been led by an organization called Concerned Student 1950, which gets its name from the year the university accepted its first black student. Its members besieged Wolfe's car at the parade, and they have been conducting a sit-in on a campus plaza since last Monday.

Two trucks flying Confederate flags drove past the site Sunday afternoon, a move many saw as an attempt at intimidation. At least 150 students gathered at the plaza Sunday night to pray, sing and read Bible verses, a larger crowd than on previous days. Many planned to camp there overnight, despite temperatures that had dropped into the upper 30s.

Also joining in the protest effort are two graduate student groups that called for walkouts Monday and Tuesday.

Concerned Student 1950 has demanded, among other things, that Wolfe "acknowledge his white male privilege," that he is immediately removed, and that the school adopt a mandatory racial-awareness program and hire more black faculty and staff.

One of the sit-in participants, Abigail Hollis, a black undergraduate, said the campus is "unhealthy and unsafe for us."

"The way white students are treated is in stark contrast to the way black students and other marginalized students are treated, and it's time to stop that," Hollis said. "It's 2015."

Columbia is about 120 miles west of Ferguson, the St. Louis suburb where tensions erupted over the shooting death of unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown last year by a white police officer.

The school's undergraduate population is 79 percent white and 8 percent black. The state is about 83 percent white and nearly 12 percent black.


Wolfe, 56, is a former software executive and Missouri business school graduate whose father taught at the university. He was hired in 2011 as president, succeeding another former business executive who also lacked experience in academia.

He said Sunday that most of the group's demands have already been incorporated into the university's draft plan for promoting tolerance.

"It is clear to all of us that change is needed," he said.

Already, at Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin's request, the university announced plans to require diversity training for all new students starting in January, along with faculty and staff.

Lawmakers and elected officials began to weigh in Sunday. The chairman of a Missouri House higher education committee, Poplar Bluff Republican Rep. Steven Cookson, said in a statement that Wolfe "can no longer effectively lead" and should leave his post. Joining him in calling for Wolfe's resignation was Assistant House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, the highest-ranking black member of that chamber.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon said the university must address the concerns so that the school is "a place where all students can pursue their dreams in an environment of respect, tolerance and inclusion."

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri graduate, said the governing board needs to "send a clear message" to the students at the Columbia campus that they'll address racism.

The Board of Curators, the system's governing body, said in a statement that it planned to meet Monday morning. According to an agenda, part of the meeting will be closed to the public.

Missouri law allows the group to meet in a private "executive session" to discuss topics including privileged communications with university counsel or personnel matters, the statement said. A system spokesman didn't respond to questions about the meeting.

The racial issues are just the latest controversy at the university in recent months, following the suspension of graduate students' health care subsidies and an end to university contracts with a Planned Parenthood clinic that performs abortions.

RELATED: See photos of University of Missouri football

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University of Missouri protests grow after athletes jump in
This is a general view of Memorial Stadium at the University of Missouri during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 10 2015, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
This is a general view of Memorial Stadium at the University of Missouri during the first quarter of their NCAA college football game against Connecticut Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
Markus Golden, center, listens to instructions before taking part in the 3-cone drill during Missouri's NFL football Pro Day on the University of Missouri campus Thursday, March 19, 2015, in Columbia, Mo.(AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
Shane Ray stretches between drills during Missouri's NFL football Pro Day on the University of Missouri campus Thursday, March 19, 2015, in Columbia, Mo.(AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
A crowd gathers around Marcus Murphy as he bench presses during Missouri's NFL football Pro Day on the University of Missouri campus Thursday, March 19, 2015, in Columbia, Mo.(AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
Marcus Murphy warms up before taking part in the 3-cone drill during Missouri's NFL football Pro Day on the University of Missouri campus Thursday, March 19, 2015, in Columbia, Mo.(AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
Markus Golden takes part in a agility drill during Missouri's NFL football Pro Day on the University of Missouri campus Thursday, March 19, 2015, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel watches his players participate in the 3-cone drill during Missouri's NFL football Pro Day on the University of Missouri campus Thursday, March 19, 2015, in Columbia, Mo.(AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
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