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Missouri legislators want to revoke student athletes’ scholarships if they boycott

Graduate student Jonathan Butler started the protests at the University of Missouri, but the football team later joined him.
Graduate student Jonathan Butler started the protests at the University of Missouri, but the football team later joined him.
Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

Some Missouri state legislators are upset about the protests over racism, backed by the football team, that ousted the University of Missouri's president and chancellor. And they want to make sure it never happens again.

Two legislators have introduced a bill that would revoke the scholarships of any college athletes who refuse to play for reasons other than health.

That would have stopped the football team's boycotts that made the Missouri protests, started by black student activists and embraced by the team and its coach, national news.

It's harder for colleges to revoke athletes' scholarships than it used to be. Colleges used to be granted wide discretion under the heading of "substandard" athletic performance. But as Jeremy Stahl wrote at Slate in November, the SEC, Missouri's conference, changed its rules this year so that scholarships could only be revoked for violating "institutional and/or team policies."

It's not clear if that would protect Missouri athletes if the bill were to actually pass.

Go deeper:

  • Steve Silver, a former Las Vegas Sun sports reporter and lawyer, writes at the Legal Blitz that this would probably violate athletes' First Amendment rights.
  • The Kansas City Star interviewed Missouri's interim president on what's next for the university.
  • A study earlier this year found student athletes were more likely to volunteer, but less likely to be activists in electoral politics. The Missouri protests might change that.