Missouri Republican proposes bill that would revoke scholarships for athletes who strike

To hear free speech scolds tell it, the biggest threats to our First Amendment rights on college campuses are students themselves. In particular, students of color who are tired of feeling unwelcome in their own communities.

This concern was brought into particularly sharp focus last month, when students at the University of Missouri protested an administration that they perceived to be absentee when it came to taking action to change what had long been an openly racist campus culture. The least successful of those protests saw a professor who had joined the student protestors refuse to let a student photographer take pictures of the event. The most successful of those protests saw members of the school’s football team threaten to not play in solidarity with a graduate student who was engaging in a hunger strike. U of M president Tim Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin stepped down shortly following the football players’ move.

Now, Missouri’s state legislature is moving to prevent, or at least put a major hurdle in front of, similar actions in the future.

From the Associated Press:

The bill Republican Rep. Rick Brattin proposed last week in the Missouri House would strip scholarships from any athlete who “calls, incites, supports or participates in any strike.” Colleges and universities would be required to fine coaching staff who encourage or enable such student protests.

Beyond the rather obvious and problematic restriction on students’ speech rights, this bill puts the University in an especially awkward position because it treats students on athletic scholarships like employees of the university — a classification that calls to mind the ongoing debate over whether college athletes (particularly in big-money sports like football) should be allowed to unionize. After all, no one would call it a “strike” if students on academic scholarships staged a walkout from class. Strikes are actions that employees take. They can be regulated as part of a collective bargaining agreement, but first you’ve got to admit that you have employees to bargain with.

This bill also comes on the heels of previous attempts by Missouri state legislators to restrict free speech at the University. Last month, State Senator Kurt Schaefer proposed a bill that would have blocked a Ph.D. student from conducting research for her dissertation, which focused on the effects of Missouri’s mandatory 72-hour waiting period for women who seek abortions.

All this is to say, again, that there are real threats to free speech on American college campuses, specifically the University of Missouri, but that anti-racist college students aren’t the ones posing them.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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5 Responses to “Missouri Republican proposes bill that would revoke scholarships for athletes who strike”

  1. nicho says:

    Never going to happen. There are too many people, some of them wealthy and politically important, who bet big bucks on the spread in college football games. They are not going to tamper with, or allow anyone else to tamper with, college football teams.

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  3. BeccaM says:

    That college football players — who are conveniently and misleadingly always labeled ‘student athletes’ — have the ability to influence policy by threatening to withhold their participation is further evidence they are an exploited labor pool, putting their health and sometimes their lives on the line for the sake of other people’s profits. As if we even needed more proof.

    BTW, Brattin is a horrific guy. He’s the one who submitted a state bill in late 2014 (for consideration this year) which would have required any woman seeking an abortion to get a signed permission slip from whichever male impregnated her. He claimed because his doctor asked if his (Brattin’s) wife was okay with him getting a vasectomy (a consent not required by law in any way), he thought it was okay for any sperm donor short of a “legitimate rapist” to be required to give a woman permission to have an abortion.

    In 2013, he sponsored a bill which would have required “intelligent design” (sic) and evolution be equal time in school classrooms. And he further wanted food stamps to be restricted to only certain foods.

    Basically, the ass is a through-and-through paternalist who wants to run other people’s lives.

  4. Ol' Hippy says:

    This is just one of the problems when students are allowed a bit of power to affect change. The controls are reasserted by what ever means necessary to obtain order. This happened back in the 60’s during the “Nam protests. This resulted in increased tuition, to weed out the trouble makers, and finally Nixon ordering shooting of peaceful protesters. This has resulted in a much more peaceful campus environment and students following the straight and narrow. Today athletes hold the power to affect change so the people in power over the universities will enact legislation to assure compliance with establishment rules. After all, athletes get free tuition so an increase wouldn’t do any good. So the next items will be to ensure athletes don’t get a piece of the economic bonanza enjoyed by top football and basketball schools. Of course all of this to keep students in their proper place. We just CAN’T allow disorder within our higher institutions.

  5. Sally says:

    Reminds me of high school in the late 60’s when our black football players threatened to not play the Homecoming Game if there was not black representation on the Homecoming Court. We had a black head cheerleader, who was on the court, and a couple of black football players were also voted onto the court. But it was a tense situation for a week or so.

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