Less than one week after proposing legislation that would strip college athletes of scholarships should they choose to strike, Missouri Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, withdrew his motion on Wednesday.
Brattin dropped the controversial legislation — which would have revoked scholarships of any student athlete who refused to play for any reason unrelated to health — without comment. He filed the bill in response to last month’s situation at the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) during which football players refused to play pending the resignation of University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe, who has since resigned.
The measure would have also required that state colleges and universities fine any members of their coaching staff who encourage or enable student athlete protests.
Critics and legal experts argued that the bill would have violated students’ First Amendment rights.
“This proposed law is a classic example of a government lashing out at political ideas it doesn’t like,” Gregory Magarian, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “That is exactly the kind of government tyranny the First Amendment was written to prevent.”
The legislation also posed other challenges and questions, including whether lawmakers have complete control over student-athlete scholarships; athletic scholarships at MU are made possible with private donations.
During a radio interview on Tuesday, Brattin said that the proposal was aimed at forcing the university to fix its own problems and denied claims made by critics that he is racist.
“We have a complete train wreck of a university due to their actions,” he said. “… It has nothing to do with race or anything like that.”
News of the bill’s withdrawal came as a surprise to co-sponsor Rep. Kurt Bahr, R-St. Charles. “Unfortunately, it’s going to be seen as a coup by those who opposed the bill,” Bahr told the Post-Dispatch.