Missouri legislator withdraws bill to bar student-athletes from protests
The backers of proposed legislation in Missouri that sought to prevent university athletes on scholarship from boycotting games withdrew the bill Wednesday morning.
The moves comes after state Reps. Rick Brattin and Kurt Bahr faced widespread criticism over the draft legislation that was introduced on Friday, including a claim the bill was racist made by one fellow member of Missouri’s House of Representatives. Brattin told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday that his constituents were supportive of HB 1743 and gave no indication he and Bahr would yank the bill.
“Yes I did,” Brattin responded via electronic message when asked if he withdrew the bill.
Brattin release a statement later Wednesday:
“My bill was filed to generate discussion on what I believe is an extremely important topic and one that deserves deliberate consideration. While I am withdrawing the legislation, I hope the conversation will continue so that we can take steps to ensure the University of Missouri is providing a stable, positive learning environment for our young people. I sincerely believe students should be able to express their viewpoints, but I also believe our flagship state university has to keep and maintain the order this is expected from such an esteemed educational institution.”
Bahr has not responded to requests for interviews.
Brattin said on Tuesday that he thinks his bill would have an impact even if it never made it to a committee in the Missouri House of Representatives.
“The hope is that the university acts so we don’t have to,” said Brattin, who represents the state’s 55th district. “We cannot have the student body, or in this case, the football team, going on strike and forcing out a school president. That cannot be allowed.”
The bill was submitted in response to the University of Missouri football players who led a boycott in November.
More than 30 black Missouri football players said they would not participate in football-related activities until university President Tim Wolfe resigned.
The boycott was part of a larger movement on the campus — which included a hunger strike by a grad student — to voice concerns about how Wolfe handled racial harassment at the school.
Two days after the boycott that had the backing of then-head coach Gary Pinkel, the university president resigned.
Employees of the university who support boycotts would be fired, under the now-withdrawn proposed bill.
“I think the students have created this situation where nobody wants to come here,” Brattin said. “There have been several prospects who have chosen not to go to MU because it’s in such disarray. We need to bring order back. The football team is a sports organization, not a political activist organization.”
Brattin said his legislation wouldn’t stifle the First Amendment because athletes would still be able to protest.
“This won’t stop them from joining arm in arm to protest before or after practice,” he said.
The Missouri House of Representatives is on recess until Jan. 6 and it wasn’t clear how far the would have gotten if it had not been withdrawn. A message left with House Speaker Todd Richardson was not immediately returned.
Rep. Brandon Ellington wrote in a statement that the “legislation is motivated by racism” and “has no place laws of a just society.”
“House Bill 1743 Seeks to further solidify and legalize institutional racism by targeting black athletes for exercising their constitutional rights to free speech and reducing them to status of subjugated livestock,” said Ellington, who chairs the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus.”
The bill didn’t spell out how it would enforce the penalties against players or coaches. But Brattin said there needs to be something in place to prevent athletes from potentially costing the university millions.
The Tigers could have been fined $1 million under a contract with BYU for the Nov. 14 game that ultimately went ahead as scheduled.
“This bill isn’t going to stop them from expressing themselves before or after practice,” Brattin said. “What they can’t do is hold an entire university hostage and make Missouri taxpayers liable for million-dollar fines.”
This article was selected for educational purposes only.
Jennifer M. Condaras
BIG EAST Conference
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