In the latest chapter of Racism American Style bleeding across headlines around the globe, University of Missouri president Tim Wolfe resigned under fire for his apparent insensitivity to the pain and anguish being experienced by the university’s Black student body. Missouri, no stranger to race related issues, placed the Red state back in the headlines when 30 of its Black football players decided not to play a single down until the president left his post.
While this story has been covered by almost every angle, the one this observer found most potent was how these Black students let their value give power to their voices. When the Missouri footballers threatened to be no shows for next weeks game against the Brigham Young cougars, Missouri University would have been on the hook for a $1 million fine payable within 30 days of the game’s cancellation. With that kind of cash on the line, these students had the clout to send their president packing.
By simply taking no action at all, the Black athletes put the change they wanted on the fast track. Even though another Black graduate student was making national news when it was announced he’d remain on a hunger strike until his organs failed if need be, the ball really got rolling when the university realized how much economic damage could be done if this issues didn’t get resolved and resolved fast.
As the university faced mounting attention from supporters, donors, the media, the business community and sponsors, the Black athletes, had everything to gain and nothing to lose. Since college athletes are actually prohibited from making a dime off their God given talents while playing college sports, these guys could sit back and let their absence do the talking. Street protest, sit ins, candle light vigils, campus demonstrations and confrontations will only go so far when dealing with issues of race. This was a strategy the university never saw coming.
One can only imagine some of the very private conversations, phone calls, tweets and emails then president Wolfe must have been receiving to help him make the obvious decision. While many of his closest friends and allies likely hold similar views Tim Wolf was being accused of, the writing was on the wall. This is a fight he could not win. It was time to raise the White Flag.
The university responded with the usual calls for classes, seminars and training to address racism, sexism, ethics and intolerance. Unfortunately, its been this observer’s experience that these types of programs generally fail to change deep seeded belief systems and prejudices. By the time someone is old enough to attend college or start a career, they are who they are and they generally stay that way.
Bottom line: For the good of the university Wolfe had to go. For sake of Missouri’s state reputation, Wolfe had to go. For another chance to rebuild race relations, Wolfe had to go. But most importantly, if the University of Missouri wanted to mitigate the financial damage to the institution’s bottom line, Wolf had to go.