A month after football players at University of Missouri, commonly referred to as Mizzou, went on strike to force the resignation of their university president for his failure to address the concerns of students of color, the state has fired shots meant to silence others who wish to follow the team’s blueprint.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Republican state representative Rick Brattin filed a proposal on Friday (December 11) that aims to revoke scholarships from college athletes who participate in a strike. If passed, it would also issue fines for coaching staff who encourage strikes. Brattin was last in the news for asking Missouri governor Jay Nixon to refuse Syrian refugees.
While the bill could potentially impact athletes at other publically-funded schools in the state, the 2014-2015 edition of the University of Missouri’s Student-Athlete Handbook makes it clear that scholarship funding comes from private donors:
The University of Missouri does not receive state appropriated funds to operate its intercollegiate athletics programs, thus, similar to private business, the Mizzou Athletics Department must operate solely from what revenue it generates. Every dollar contributed is used for scholarship expenses, tuition, fees, room and board, and other academic resources for the more than 520 young men and women student-athletes who attend the University of Missouri.
So it’s unclear what influence the state could exercise over that money.
And then there is the First Amendment issue—this bill blatantly seeks to abridge students’ right to free speech. It has not yet been scheduled for a hearing, but the proposed effective date is August 28, 2016.
The full text of the bill appears below:
1. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any college athlete who calls, incites, supports, or participates in any strike or concerted refusal to play a scheduled game shall have his or her scholarship revoked.
2. Any member of a coaching staff who encourages or enables a college athlete to engage in behavior prohibited under subsection 1 of this section shall be fined by his or her institution of employment.
3. The department of higher education shall promulgate all necessary rules and regulations for the administration of this section. Any rule or portion of a rule, as that term is defined in section 536.010, that is created under the authority delegated in this section shall become effective only if it complies with and is subject to all of the provisions of chapter 536 and, if applicable, section 536.028. This section and chapter 536 are nonseverable, and if any of the powers vested with the general assembly pursuant to chapter 536 to review, to delay the effective date, or to disapprove and annul a rule are subsequently held unconstitutional, then the grant of rulemaking authority and any rule proposed or adopted after August 28, 2016, shall be invalid and void.