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Student Well-Being

Mo. Legislator Withdraws Bill to Revoke Scholarships If Student-Athletes Strike

By Bryan Toporek — December 17, 2015 2 min read
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Five days after pre-filing a bill that would have revoked the scholarships of collegiate student-athletes if they went on strike, a Missouri legislator withdrew the proposed legislation.

State Rep. Rick Brattin introduced the bill on Dec. 11 in response to the University of Missouri football team’s decision in November to cease participation in any football-related activities until President Tim Wolfe resigned or was removed from his post. (Wolfe wound up resigning within 48 hours of the football team’s announcement.)

Had the bill in its current form passed, it would have revoked the scholarship of “any college athlete who calls, incites, supports, or participates in any strike or concerted refusal to play a scheduled game.” The bill also would have required a university to fine any member of a coaching staff “who encourages or enables a college athlete to engage in [such] behavior.” Missouri’s then-head football coach, Gary Pinkel, stood by his players in their decision to protest. (He resigned soon thereafter due to health concerns.)

In speaking with CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd about the proposed legislation, Brattin called Wolfe’s resignation “a knee-jerk reaction,” saying, “The university should have stood against this anarchy that happened with this protest.” He described the team’s conduct as “completely horrific” and said Missouri has a “radioactive brand now” as a result.

Brattin’s bill met significant media resistance upon being pre-filed, with Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples referring to it as “ludicrous.” As he noted, the NCAA continues to maintain the stance that collegiate student-athletes are not university employees, thereby eliminating any chance of schools being able to revoke scholarships of players who opt not to participate in a game out of protest.

“The passage of Brattin’s bill could suppress free speech, cause Missouri to stink at football and cause the NCAA to lose its ability to enforce its amateurism rules,” Staples wrote. “But other than that, it’s a swell piece of legislation.”

On Wednesday, Brattin opted to withdraw the proposed bill.

“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,” he said in a statement, via the Kansas City Star. “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 that is expected from such an esteemed educational institution.”

Chalk up another victory to the Missouri Tigers football team.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.