Proposed Bill Would Revoke Scholarships of Striking Student Athletes

A Missouri lawmaker has introduced a bill that would revoke scholarships awarded to college athletes who refuse to play for reasons unrelated to health.

Missouri Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, filed the bill, which would strip scholarships from any student athlete “who calls, incites, supports, or participates in any strike or concerted refusal to play a scheduled game.” The proposed legislation comes one month after University of Missouri–Columbia (MU) football players refused to play pending the resignation of then University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe.

In addition, state colleges and universities would be required to fine members of the coaching staff should they encourage or enable student athlete protests. After MU football players announced their strike last month, former Missouri Tigers head coach Gary Pinkel expressed his support for players on Twitter, saying that the team “stands as one.”

Former MU football player Ian Simon, who led the team’s boycott, responded to the legislation’s announcement in a statement, saying, “They want to call us student athletes, but they keep us out of the student part of it.”

“I’m more than just a football player,” Simon continued. “… As soon as we’re done playing at the University of Missouri, the University of Missouri does not care about us anymore. We are not their responsibility. … Our sport is just a small part of who we are.”

Brattin has not publicly commented on his proposed bill. However, co-sponsor of the legislation Missouri State Rep. Kurt Bahr, R-St. Charles, said it is a way of “showing support for the idea of holding students responsible who are taking state dollars.”

The bill, which has no scheduled hearing date yet, would go into effect just prior to the start of the 2016 football season, on August 28.

Critics say there are many issues with the legislation, including the assumption that lawmakers have complete control over student-athlete scholarships. Athletic scholarships at MU are made possible with private donations, further complicating the issue of government interference.