Mizzou football team holds meeting instead of practice to support student’s hunger strike cause

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COLUMBIA, Mo. -- On Sunday night, as Mizzou graduate student Jonathan Butler continued his hunger strike in protest of University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe, who he says has not done enough to address racism on campus, the football team did not practice and instead held a meeting.

They didn't have much to say to reporters on their way out, but on Sunday Coach Gary Pinkel tweeted a picture today along with a captain that said 'The Mizzou family stands as one. We are united. We are behind our players.'

Butler started his hunger strike last week, claiming University of Missouri system president Tim Wolfe hasn't done enough to change the campus climate after racist incidents at the university.

In support of Butler, the football team did not practice and according to Coach Pinkel, his players don't plan to return to practice until Butler eats again.

On Sunday, Coach Gary Pinkel and Director of Athletics Mack Rhoades released the following statement about Butler and the schedule going forward.

"Today, Sunday, there will be no football practice or formal team activities. Our focus right now is on the health of Jonathan Butler, the concerns of our student-athletes and working with our community to address this serious issue. After meeting with the team this morning, it is clear they do not plan to return to practice until Jonathan resumes eating. We are continuing to have department, campus, and student meetings as we work through this issue and will provide further comment tomorrow afternoon."

On Saturday, Nov. 14, the Mizzou Tigers are to play Brigham Young University from Provo, Utah, at Arrowhead Stadium. If Mizzou does not show up to play, the University of Missouri will owe BYU one million dollars, according to the contract between the two schools.

"We're not allowed to comment on much so, like I said, we are just going to all stay together as a team," said Jason Reece, Mizzou tight end after the meeting. "We all made this decision as a team to, you know, not talk to the media, so you aren't going to hear much from the players."

The Board of Curators will hold an executive session meeting Monday, Nov. 9 at 10 a.m.  The session was called 'for consideration of certain confidential or privileged communications with university counsel, negotiated contracts, personnel matters, and records protected from disclosure by law, all as authorized by law and upon approval by resolution of the Board of Curators,' according to the announcement about the special session.

Jonathan Butler says his hunger strike is meant to force the ouster of Wolfe. Butler began his strike in response to what he terms "a slew of racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., incidents that have dramatically disrupted the learning experience..." Butler pointed to incidents where racial epithets were cast at African American students, graduate students were denied health insurance, and most recently an incident where someone smeared feces in the shape of a swastika in a residential hall bathroom. He says that Wolfe has not done enough to change the campus climate for better.

Butler says his strike will continue until Wolfe resigns, is removed, or Butler dies.

Earlier, the athletic department released the following statement:

"The department of athletics is aware of the declarations made tonight by many of our student-athletes. We must come together with leaders from across our campus to tackle these challenging issues and we support our athletes right to do so."

While former players L'Damian Washington and Henry Josey voiced their support, the most prominent current player to make a statement on Saturday night is cornerback and kick returner John Gibson III, saying that he and other 'athletes of color' will not participate in team activities until Wolfe is no longer president.

A group of students confronted Wolfe about the situation in Kansas City on Friday night.

Wolfe released a statement on Sunday that said, in part:

"It is clear to all of us that change is needed, and we appreciate the thoughtfulness and passion which have gone into the sharing of concerns. My administration has been meeting around the clock and has been doing a tremendous amount of reflection on how to address these complex matters.

Clearly, we are open to listening to all sides, and are confident that we can come together to improve the student experience on our campuses. We want to find the best way to get everyone around the table and create the safe space for a meaningful conversation that promotes change. We will share next steps as soon as they are confirmed." Click here to read the complete statement.

Other Missouri political leaders released statements on Sunday, as well, including U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D) Missouri and Gov. Jay Nixon (D) Missouri.

From McCaskill:

"At this point I think it is essential that the University of Missouri Board of Curators send a clear message to the students at Mizzou that there is an unqualified commitment to address racism on campus. As a graduate who cares deeply about Mizzou, I'm confident that my university can and will do better in supporting an environment of tolerance and inclusion."

From Nixon:

“Racism and intolerance have no place at the University of Missouri or anywhere in our state,” Gov. Nixon said.  “Our colleges and universities must be havens of trust and understanding.  These concerns must be addressed to ensure the University of Missouri is a place where all students can pursue their dreams in an environment of respect, tolerance and inclusion.”

We are no longer taking it. It's time to fight. #ConcernedStudent1950 #MizzouHungerStrike pic.twitter.com/mnPZBviqJF

— LBC (@MizzouLBC) November 8, 2015

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