The University of Missouri athletics program is responsible for demonstrating many positive changes in the realm of sports as agents of change in society over the past few years. “Sports is a microcosm of society” is a common sociology of sport truism which means sports is a small world reflection of the bigger world at large. The Mizzou football team came together like a family in 2013 and supported Michael Sam who was later drafted as the NFL’s first openly gay player. The Missouri football team along with students and faculty were in the National spotlight again when they came together to save the life of fasting student Jonathan Butler while helping remove Missouri System President Tim Wolfe over race issues on the MU campus on November 9, 2015. What happened at Mizzou is related to what happened in Ferguson, MO.
“…if a student was willing to risk his life in order to evoke change, and the football team was willing to get involved, then the coach and school had to respond with appropriate seriousness. It’s time for introspection, and ultimately was time for quick corrective action…The fact that the football team immersed itself in the controversy brought it to a boil nationally. That isn’t a bad thing. It’s OK for an athletic team to be known for something other than its win-loss record. It’s OK for jocks to flex their campus muscles for something other than athletic glory.” (Forde, 2015)
“Back on campus, an old professor taught a course about the 1960s, about social activism, about the power of sports, about how change doesn’t happen by wishing and hoping; change comes from challenging… But similar to 1968 Olympians John Carlos and Tommie Smith, the athletes who raised their black fists on the medal stand in defiance, it sometimes takes sports to make change in society. Or, at minimum, spark society. “Sports are something that people pay attention to,” …I think this is more akin to Jackie Robinson, the importance of sports, at some moments, to put (issues) on display.” This past weekend, a Southeastern Conference football team said it wouldn’t practice or play until social change was made on campus. Take your own politics out of it for a moment — that’s still a pretty profound moment in sports. And in society… “It’s paramount as a campus and a community that this not divide us,” athletics director Mack Rhoades said Monday, “but rather bring us together to listen, to grow, to understand and to create positive change.”…“It is our duty to fight for our freedom!” they chanted. “It is our duty to win! We must love and support each other! We have nothing to lose but our chains!”…It is all so surreal and intense and liberating and compelling and just crazy that here, at Mizzou, this international news story is taking place. Change could happen. And to think, you can help make some change by just being a bigger man or woman…Challenge yourself.” (Hochman, 2015)
Bromberg, N. (November 9, 2015). Missouri players state reasons for boycott, confirm games vs. BYU. Retrieved from the website: http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/ncaaf-dr-saturday/missouri-players-state-reasons-for-boycott–confirm-game-vs–byu-002236646.html
Forde, P. (November 9, 2015). Missouri resignation shows the power of sports. Retrieved from the Yahoo Sports website: https://www.yahoo.com/sports/news/missouri-situation-shows-power-of-sports-to-bring-enormous-change-172342770.html
Hochman, B. (November 10, 2015). Hochman: Lessons from old Professor ring true at Mizzou. Retrieved from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website: http://www.stltoday.com/sports/columns/benjamin-hochman/hochman-lessons-from-old-professor-ring-true-at-mizzou/article_f33c49bd-6972-55da-bdfe-a7bc9e7132c2.html
Dr. Michael Fredrick PhD, is the Chair of Sport Studies at USSA and University of Missouri alumni and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.