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Missouri football players strike over racial inequality

Football players at the University of Missouri have joined in a campuswide protest to pressure school leaders to combat racial bias. The move follows weeks of demonstrations by minority students.

Weeks of protests against racial bias at the University of Missouri escalated on Sunday, when about 30 black football players joined the movement by saying they would not participate in any team activities until the school's president steps down. The school could lose millions if it is forced to cancel its upcoming game against Brigham Young University.

"The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe 'injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,'" the players said in a statement. "We will no longer participate in any football related activities until President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed due to his negligence toward marginalized students' experience. WE ARE UNITED!!!!!"

Wolfe will not resign, pledges change

Last month, the organization Concerned Student 1950, referring to the year that African-Americans were first allowed to attend the university, blocked Wolfe's car in an attempt to get him to agree to a sit-down and listen to their concerns about the increasing prevalence of racial slurs and intolerance on campus.

Wolfe has shown no sign of an intention to step down, but said on Sunday that "change is needed" and that the university is working on a plan to promote diversity and tolerance.

The undergraduate population of the flagship campus of the University of Missouri is 79 percent white and 8 percent black. Over the past few months, African Americans students, including the student body president, say they have increasingly been targeted with racial slurs. A swastika drawn in feces was also discovered in a dormitory bathroom.

In response, Concerned Student 1950 launched a sit-in on the campus's main plaza that has been ongoing since last Monday. One graduate student, Jonathan Butler, is nearly a week into a hunger strike to call attention to racial inequality on campus.

"The way white students are treated is in stark contrast to the way black students and other marginalized students are treated," sit-in participant Abigail Hollis told the Associated Press.

Despite the stakes for the school's football team, which won the Southeastern Conference East title in 2013 and 2014, coach Gary Pinkel tweeted his solidarity with the striking players:

President Wolfe, who took over the president's chair in 2011 as a former software executive with no experience in academia, says most of the demands from Concerned Student 1950, such as more diverse admissions and faculty hires, have already been incorporated in the university's new plan to support tolerance.

es/bk (AP, Reuters)

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