SUBSCRIBE NOW
Only $39 for one year.
SUBSCRIBE NOW
Only $39 for one year.

Tigers continue speaking out about racial injustice

By Eric Blum
Columbia Daily Tribune

Change doesn’t come overnight.

Missouri head football coach Eli Drinkwitz knows that, and so do his players as well as everyone else in the program.

The Tigers’ isolated act of canceling football practice Friday and resetting their weekend schedule isn’t in of itself an enormous catalyst for reform. It was, however, another step in the team’s ongoing efforts to bring awareness to racial injustice.

Per a team statement released Friday night, Missouri canceled Friday’s practice “in order to focus on the current state of our country.” The statement later directly mentioned racism and police brutality.

The canceled practice came five days after Jacob Blake, an African American male, was shot seven times in the back by a Kenosha, Wisconsin, police officer on Sunday while opening the door and leaning into his vehicle during an altercation with police over a domestic violence dispute.

The Blake family’s attorney said Blake was paralyzed and that it would “take a miracle” for him to walk again, The Associated Press reported. The shooting of the 29-year-old Blake was captured on cellphone video.

No charges have been announced, and state officials continue to investigate.

“We've been doing this for over 100 years,” Missouri junior linebacker Nick Bolton said of advocating for social equality for African Americans. Bolton, alongside teammates Larry Rountree and Case Cook, were voted team captains for the 2020 season on Saturday morning. The Tigers’ fourth captaincy spot will rotate among seniors.

Bolton continued: “And so, (we’re) just trying to take it day by day, to try to bring awareness to the situation, nothing really more than that, other than just bring light to the situation and help those who don't completely understand it, just bring understanding to the situation. And that was just our main goal of yesterday and I think we accomplished that.”

Those remarks mirror comments made by Tiger coaches and players in early June in the immediate aftermath of Floyd’s death while protests of social injustice swept the nation, including more than a dozen demonstrations in Columbia.

One of those protests, a peaceful demonstration June 3, was spearheaded by MU safety and Columbia native Martez Manuel, as members of the football team and several others from the Missouri athletic department marched from the Columns on Francis Quadrangle to the Boone County Courthouse.

While at the courthouse, the group knelt for 8 minutes, 46 seconds — the length of time related to Floyd’s killing — and 62 student-athletes registered to vote.

“We look forward to putting a plan together. Yesterday was about planning and coming together and talking about it,” Drinkwitz said Saturday. “When we first did something in June, it was about voting. We have launched another initiative that we've kept in-house and plan on continuing to do in-house. And we're doing things within the community that we don't want everybody to know, but we are doing things.

“And yesterday was about, ‘OK, we've done that and it's still happening. So what else can we do to bring attention to this?’ And I look forward to our team bringing some more things forward and we have a lot of really good ideas. We're not ready to necessarily say all those right now because we want to make sure when we do, that we're buttoned up, we have great detail and it's collaborative. And it's not just Mizzou football, it's #Mizzou4Change and it’s inclusive and has a lot of power behind it.”

Rountree said Friday’s team meeting lasted about three hours and involved a collective decision from the players and coaches leading to the cancellation of practice.

“As a team, together, we're like, ‘OK, we should do this.’ Everybody's actually coming together and we're coming up with things that we're going to do as a team to go and talk about social justice in America,” Rountree said. “It's not for the internet. ... I'm going to use my platform. I'm a student-athlete at the University of Missouri and I can say something. As a team, we can all come together and say something and be real about the situation, and not just let it fly over our heads like nothing’s going on.

“We can't just sit here and act like ain’t nothing going on, and I'd be wrong if I didn't say anything about it. So as a team, we came together and we said what we had to say. And I'm happy as a collective group of young men that coaches were behind us.”

Missouri returned to practice Saturday, and Drinkwitz said outside of the weather forcing a change of venue, nothing was out of the ordinary in the team’s return to on-field activities. The Tigers have a closed-door scrimmage scheduled for Sunday.

Missouri football’s next idea for progressing social justice conversations is unclear. But the Tigers made it clear they’re far from done discussing the topic.

“When a member of the family is hurting, we're all hurting. When a member of the family’s doing great, we're all doing great,” Cook said. “So just all acting as one and being a collective union team and the family, it's not hard to figure these things out. There are families that have stuff going on all the time. So us acting as one makes things a whole lot easier.”