A state representative in the Missouri House filed a bill on Monday that aims to punish student athletes who exercise their right to protest.

State Rep. Rick Brattin (R) filed House Bill 1743 which would allow student athletes who are on scholarship to lose their awards if they refuse to play “for a reason unrelated to health.” Additionally, coaching staff who show support could face a fine from the university, STL Today reports.

The stipulations implicitly target Mizzou football players. On November 8, black football players announced they were not going to play in an act of solidarity with graduate student Jonathan Butler, who was on hunger strike over a sequence of racist events on campus and campus administration’s mishandling of the situations. The players were supported not only by their fellow white players, but they also received encouragement from head coach Gary Pinkel.

The football players’ decision not to play until Butler ate ultimately lead to the strike gaining national attention. And when the University of Missouri was faced with possibility of losing millions if the strike was upheld, the strike provided just enough leverage for president Tim Wolfe to resign. Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin announced he would step down from his post shortly after Wolfe’s public statement.

The power of the football players’ actions helped transform the #ConcernedStudent1950 protests into a national movement, sparking students protests against racism in higher education on college and university campuses across the country.

While the bill aims to retroactively punish the players for their actions, it must contend with a number of problems with how it is framed. Not only does the bill violate athletes’ first amendment rights, but it also aims to dictate the University of Missouri athletic department’s funds, which it gets independent of the state.

The bill will not be evaluated until the next legislative session, which begins on January 6, 2016.

In the weeks between now and the new session begins, state representatives should consider ways to curb campus racism so that no students, including athletes, have to fight for their basic right to be respected while getting their education.


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