The "Wayne Sells Family Activity Field" sign hangs below the scoreboard on Wednesday at Rock Bridge High School.

The Wayne Sells Family Activity Field sign hangs below the scoreboard Wednesday at Rock Bridge High School. After backlash from a profane social media post made by local donor Wayne Sells, the Columbia School Board has decided to change the field's name. 

After backlash from a profane social media post, Wayne Sells sent a letter to Columbia Public Schools on Wednesday asking that the Wayne Sells Family Activity Field be renamed.

Sells criticized NFL athletes who knelt during a recent game and ended his Facebook post with  "All Lives Matter," and an expletive. 

The phrase is used to counter the sentiments of Black Lives Matter as a statement and a movement. Sells removed the post and apologized for his language in the letter to Columbia Public Schools suggesting the name change. 

The Columbia School Board had already called a Friday special closed session to discuss the name change, after board president Helen Wade publicly condemned the post and called for a renaming of the Wayne Sells Family Activity Field “with all due expediency.”

The board has scheduled a discussion of changing the field’s name at a public work session Sept 24, according to an email from district spokesperson Michelle Baumstark.

Sells has been a prominent figure in the Columbia community. The Wayne Sells Family Activity Field was named after him after he donated $100,000 so the field could be created. He has also been supportive of the athletic programs at Hickman High School.

Wade’s statement, which was posted by board member David Seamon, says, “The post using profane language to refer to NFL players that took a knee during the playing of the national anthem as well as others who the author perceived to be affiliated with ‘all lives matter’ was insulting to put it mildly, and racist to put it bluntly.

“The content of the post is not representative of the beliefs of RBHS, of CPS or of our Board, and appropriate action should be taken — beginning with outreach,” it said.

Superintendent Peter Stiepleman endorsed Wade’s statement.

“Black Lives Matter. This is not acceptable, and I have learned is not the first time this type of post has been done. It violates our values and our principles,” Stiepleman shared on his Twitter feed.

Baumstark’s email noted that despite the fact Sells’ gifts to the district are appreciated, his post is not representative of the school system’s values.

On Wednesday, the executive board of the nonprofit Race Matters, Friends issued a statement calling for the removal of Sells’ name from the football field.

“White Supremacy should have no home in the community, particularly in our public schools, and that includes the Sells Family Athletic Dining Hall at the University of Missouri,” the statement said.

In an email Wednesday evening, MU officials said, “Mizzou Athletics was made aware of the social media post earlier today and has initiated conversations with the appropriate campus officials to determine options that are available to deal with this situation.”

In Sells’ letter to the district, he apologized for the language he used in the post.

“I let those strong feelings get the best of me in my post. While I will always stand for the anthem and believe every American should, I sincerely apologize for the inappropriate way I chose to share that,” he wrote.

“My words hurt, and I understand that.”

  • Education reporter, fall 2020 Studying arts and culture journalism Reach me at jsp6z8@umsystem.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

  • As senior editor of the Missourian, Fred Anklam manages general assignment reporters. He can be reached at anklamf@missouri.edu or in the newsroom at 573-882-5720.

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