Student athletes have the power to influence social issues



Student athletes are beginning to understand the powers they possess after more than 30 University of Missouri football players announced on Nov. 7, they would not participate in any football-related activities until Tim Wolfe, the university system president, was removed from his position.

The actions of the Missouri football team should inspire black athletes to use their power to bring change to campuses nationwide. Students at Ithaca College in New York, at Smith College in Massachusetts, and at Yale University in Connecticut are protesting due to racial insensitivity on campus, showing that racism is prevalent at campuses all across the country.

After a swastika drawn in human excrement was found on the wall of a dormitory at Missouri, graduate student Jonathan L. Butler began a hunger strike, announcing he would only consume water until Wolfe had lost his position. Five days after Butler’s hunger strike was announced, the football players announced they would not practice or play until Wolfe is removed. Only one day after the start of the football team’s boycott, Wolfe announced his resignation.

Why did Wolfe resign so quickly after the football players protested, but Butler’s protest went relatively unnoticed? The answer comes from the million-dollar fine the university would have received if the football game against Brigham Young University was canceled.

In 2014, African-American students made up only 6 percent of the population at UK. This number is low considering there are more than 30,000 students on campus. Many student-led protests at the university have fallen flat because African-American students do not make up a significant enough percentage of the total student population, making it difficult for the protests to gain followers and members. However, the majority of the football team and basketball team is African-American.

History making African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in a silent protest of racial discrimination during the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, just after winning gold and bronze medals.

“Black America will understand what we did tonight,” said Smith in a press conference after the event.

Two days later, Smith and Carlos were suspended for the U.S. National Team and expelled from the Olympic village.

Sometimes personal gains must be lost in order to gain rights for an entire group.

African-American students may have little power on most college campuses, but African-American athletes have the ability to bring down conflict across the country.

It is time for athletes to stand up and put their power to use, and to join their peers in demanding campuses be free of racism regardless of the consequence.

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