University of Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel said at a news conference Monday that supporting his players’ boycott of team activities until state university system president Tim Wolfe resigned was the “right thing” and he’d “do it again.”
“My players ― they’re my kids, I love those guys,” Pinkel told reporters following the resignation of Wolfe. He said the boycott, triggered by Wolfe’s handling of several racial incidents, was an “extraordinary” circumstance that made football a secondary priority.
“They had tears in their eyes and asked if I would support them and I said I would ― it’s about supporting my players when they needed me,” Pinkel said. “I did the right thing and I would do it again.”
Pinkel tweeted a photo of the football team on Sunday, saying the “Mizzou Family stands as one.”
Pinkel's tweet contained the hashtag #ConcernedStudent1950, a group that had protested Wolfe's presidency. The group demanded Wolfe's resignation, along with changes to the university's approach to diversity, race relations and mental health resources.
Wolfe resigned Monday, pressured by the football team's refusal to play and by graduate student Jonathan Butler's hunger strike. Wolfe was under fire for his handling of a series of racially motivated incidents on campus.
Butler began his hunger strike on Nov. 2, days after a swastika was drawn with feces in a new residence hall. In the month before that, a white man interrupted a Legion of Black Collegians rehearsal for a homecoming play. When the black students tried to get him to leave, the students said he responded, "These niggers are getting aggressive with me."
Days later, black students confronted Wolfe during a homecoming parade, stopping his car to speak about incidents of racism dating to the university's founding in 1839. Some white parade watchers shouted at the students to move on, and the driver of Wolfe's car attempted to drive around them, clipping two students.
In September, the president of the Missouri Student Association, Payton Head, who is black, said that white students hurled racial slurs at him as he walked on campus.
Pinkel and athletic director Mack Rhoades both said at Monday's press conference that Butler's hunger strike played a major role in the football players' boycott. They also said significant financial losses that would have resulted if games were canceled weren't a consideration.
Jonathan Butler's "life was at stake, and that was real for our players," Rhoades said. "And so our student-athletes decided to get involved, and quite frankly we supported them."
Social change is a beautiful thing.— Marcell Frazier (@YuskeFrazier) November 9, 2015
Now we can focus on the game this weekend..— Josh Moore (@JoshMoore_08) November 9, 2015
Changing history— Brock Bondurant (@BrockBondurant) November 9, 2015
BYU week... Let's go😈🏈— Paul Adams (@PaulAdams64) November 9, 2015
"Not surprising at all. We stand by each other. We are a family." - Michael Sam— Howard Bryant (@hbryant42) November 9, 2015