Missouri player says many on team don't support practice boycott

ByBrett McMurphy ESPN logo
Monday, November 9, 2015

A Missouri Tigers player said Sunday night that the entire team is not united over the decision to stop practicing until grad student Jonathan Butler ends his hunger strike.

"As much as we want to say everyone is united, half the team and coaches -- black and white -- are pissed," the player, who wished to remain anonymous, told ESPN. "If we were 9-0, this wouldn't be happening."

The player, who is white, spoke on the condition of anonymity because coaches told the team not to talk to the media as they thought the situation "would blow over eventually."

Butler began a hunger strike last Monday, saying University of Missouri president Tim Wolfe should step down after failing to respond to student concerns about racial tension in the wake of several on-campus incidents.

On Sunday, coach Gary Pinkel and athletic director Mack Rhoades issued a statement that Missouri did not practice Sunday and indicated "it was clear" the Tigers "do not plan to return to practice until Jonathan resumes eating."

Mondays are regular off-days for the football team. The coaches told the players to watch film on their iPads and keep preparing for Saturday's game against BYU in Kansas City, the player said.The men's basketball team, meanwhile practiced on Sunday and all signs point to the Tigers playing in their opener Friday at home against Wofford, a source told ESPN's Jeff Goodman.

The football player indicated the team had been aware of Butler's hunger strike for several days. However, some black players didn't decide to take action until Butler met with some players Saturday night.

"Not everyone agrees with the decision [to stop all football activities]," the player said. "Most people are pissed, including the black guys [on the team]."

Racial tension has been brewing on Missouri's campus in Columbia since September, when Payton Head, the Missouri Students Association president and an African-American, said he was racially abused while walking. Students protested when it took nearly a week for the university chancellor to address the incident.

Then in October, a student yelled the N-word at members of the Legion of Black Collegians in a campus plaza while they were rehearsing for a play. Later that month, someone smeared feces in the shape of a swastika on a bathroom wall in a new residence hall.

The university downplayed the incident, and more criticism toward administrators ensued.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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