Monday, December 14, 2015

Update: Republican Lawmaker Withdraws Bill That Sought to Ban Mizzou-Style Athlete Protests

Posted By on Mon, Dec 14, 2015 at 4:08 PM

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Update, Wednesday:
Although Rick Brattin has publicly defended his controversial proposal to effectively ban college athletes from boycotting games (as Mizzou athletes threatened to do last month during a campus-wide protest), the state representative ended up withdrawing the legislation this morning. 

Our original story continues below. 


Republican state Representative Rick Brattin pre-filed legislation last week that seeks to revoke the scholarship of any college athlete "who refuses to play for a reason unrelated to health." 

That doesn't sound very interesting on its own, but here's the necessary subtext: Brattin is throwing some legislative shade at members of the University of Missouri football team, the same student athletes who threatened to boycott a game unless the school's administration heeded the demands of campus protesters. The support of the football team drew national attention to the campus protest movement, culminating in the resignation of UM Systems President Tim Wolfe on November 9

See also:
 Missouri Student Protesters Seize Power — and They're Not Giving It Back

As if the bill wasn't heavy-handed enough, Brattin's bill (which you can read in full here) would also levy a fine on coaches who support their players' game-skipping behavior, which is exactly what former Mizzou football coach Gary Pinkel did. 

Ian Simon, a former Mizzou safety and leader of the threatened player boycott, told Columbia Missourian football beat writer Aaron Reiss that the legislation won't dissuade other student athletes from participating in protests. 

“I don’t just wear a helmet on Saturdays and disappear the other six days of the week," Simon told Reiss


We've reached out to Brattin, but he's yet to respond to our inquiries about the bill. But the bill's co-sponsor, Republican Kurt Bahr, told Reiss that the bill was explicitly written as a response to the Mizzou football team's actions during the protest.

"The bill is obviously a reaction to the athletes who were saying they weren't going to play [because of] what they considered to be social issues on campus," Bahr said. "I don't that is an appropriate response on their part. The issue really is, they can have the freedom of speech [when they] like or don't like something on campus. But if they're going to receive state money, there are going to ramifications." 

As others have noted, Mizzou's athletic scholarships are funded by private donations to the Missouri Tigers Scholarship Fund. 
 
It's worth noting that even among Missouri's bevy of firebrand lawmakers, Brattin has made a name for himself proposing  controversial legislation. Last year, he sponsored a bill that would require women seeking abortions to acquire the father's permission or, alternatively, to provide proof of "legitimate rape." The bill did not pass. 

Update: State representative Brandon Ellington, who has criticized the climate of racism at Mizzou, released a blistering statement Tuesday that castigates Brattin for treating black student athletes like property. 

“House Bill 1743 seeks to further solidify and legalize institutional racism by targeting black athletes for exercising their constitutional rights to free speech and reducing them to the status of subjugated livestock," said Ellington in the statement. 

"This legislation is motivated by racism and contemptuous of free speech. It has no place among the laws of a just society.”

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_ Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com


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