The head coach of the University of Missouri’s football team, Gary Pinkel, gave his full backing Sunday to the black players who are threatening to boycott games and team activities. Pinkel, who is white, stood behind his Missouri Tigers, who are demanding the resignation or removal of the school’s embattled president, Tim Wolfe, over what they call his failure to address racism on campus.

 


 

"Today, Sunday, there will be no football practice or formal team activities," athletics director Mack Rhoades said in a statement obtained by USA Today. "Our focus right now is on the health of Jonathan Butler, the concerns of our student-athletes and working with our community to address this serious issue. After meeting with the team this morning, it is clear they do not plan to return to practice until Jonathan resumes eating. We are continuing to have department, campus, and student meetings as we work through this issue and will provide further comment" on Monday.

Butler, a graduate student, started a one-man hunger strike last week, demanding Wolfe’s removal, after someone used feces to draw a swastika on a college dorm’s brand-new white wall. He wrote to Missouri officials, saying "students are not able to achieve their full academic potential because of the inequalities and obstacles they face," according to the Missouri Columbian newspaper. "In each of these scenarios, Mr. Wolfe had ample opportunity to create policies and reform that could shift the culture of Mizzou in a positive direction, but in each scenario, he failed to do so."

In a tweet posted Saturday night by Missouri’s Legion of Black Collegians, about 30 football players joined Butler’s demand for Wolfe’s removal, announcing they will sit out all football-related activities until the university president is no gone.

"The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe ‘Injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere,’” the tweet said, according to CNN. "We will no longer participate in any football related activities until President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed due to his negligence toward marginalized students' experience.”

In recent weeks, African-American students at Missouri’s overwhelmingly white campus in Columbia have complained about the school’s inaction in dealing with racist taunts and insults. Gov. Jay Nixon said Friday the issues must be addressed. Wolfe agreed, but showed no sign that he will give in to demands for his resignation. In a statement Sunday, the university president said he is "dedicated to ongoing dialogue to address these very complex, societal issues,” according to CNN.

Missouri was the scene of the police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson in August 2014, which aroused widespread and sometimes violent protests.