Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel and athletic director Mack Rhoades met with reporters Monday afternoon, hours after Missouri System President Tim Wolfe resigned amid protests and outcry for his removal after several incidences of racism on campus in recent months.
Among those joining in on the protests were several African-American football players on Saturday night.
The entire team met a day later and Pinkel (and later with Rhoades in a joint statement) sent a tweet voicing support for his players, who vowed not to participate in football activities until Wolfe stepped away.
When addressing reporters Monday, both Pinkel and Rhoades maintained that their goal was not to get Wolfe fired, but it was to support the football players and save the life of student Jonathan Butler, who had been on a hunger strike for nearly a week.
“My players called me and told me they were going on campus,” said Pinkel, who noted he’s life a father to his players. “Guys were emotional and concerned about (Butler’s) life.
“It was about supporting my players when they needed me. I did the right thing and I would do it again.”
Added Rhoades: “Our student-athletes decided to get involved and we supported them. They decided to be leaders in this issue to save the life of a fellow student.”
In response to a question about a report that quoted an anonymous white Tigers player who was opposed to the boycott, Pinkel said he was sure there were some who felt that way. However, Pinkel said many who may have been unsure went along with their teammates anyway because the team is a “family.”
“I’m sure there were some players who went along to support their teammates,” Pinkel said. “I’m not naïve to think there were players who put their hands up and said, ‘I’m in,’ because they care about their teammates.”
Pinkel, who mentioned that he’s had a few players tell him about experiences with racism during his 15-year tenure as head coach, said he and the team discussed if there were other alternatives to express their viewpoints, including a potential march through campus or to put some sort of sticker on the team’s helmet. However, Pinkel said, the team was adamant about the boycott.
“They wanted to stick with what their plan was,” Pinkel said. “The situation was very serious and very emotional and I was very concerned about our players.”
The team did not practice on Sunday and had its normal day off on Monday. If the boycott were to continue into Tuesday (when the team will return to practice), Pinkel said he had a “small talk” with his staff, but was unsure about what would happen next in terms of the status of Saturday’s game at BYU.
The players expressed to him that they wanted to play the game, but felt “strongly that they needed to make a statement and try to really help Jonathan Butler.”
And in terms of the financial ramifications ($1 million) that would come with a cancelation, Rhoades said it was not the focus.
“These are very unusual circumstances and I’ve been doing this a long time,” Pinkel said. “I have been a part of nothing like this and feel we did the right thing – without question.
“We’ve got problems, but they exist on every campus in America. We are going to learn from this and become a much better place.”
For more Missouri news, visit PowerMizzou.com.
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