Logan Cheadle, Kenya Dennis and Trei Walton attend walkout

Missouri football players, from left to right, defensive back Logan Cheadle, defensive back Kenya Dennis and defensive back Trei Walton, attend the graduate student and faculty walkout Monday at Mel Carnahan Quadrangle at MU. Black members of the Missouri football team announced Saturday that they would boycott all athletic participation until UM Systems President Tim Wolfe resigned. Wolfe resigned around 10 a.m. Monday.

COLUMBIA — J'Mon Moore couldn't help but talk.

The sophomore wide receiver and two teammates — Charles Harris and Anthony Sherrils — stood a few feet away from the Concerned Student 1950 campsite and had agreed they would only talk to reporters about the Tigers' upcoming game against Brigham Young University.

The team decided Monday it would play in the game after UM System President Tim Wolfe announced his resignation. Wolfe's decision prompted graduate student Jonathan Butler to end his hunger strike, which meant the team would end the boycott of football-related activities that black players announced Saturday.

But Moore couldn't just talk about BYU. He couldn't let teammate Ian Simon's prepared statement — read with roughly 25 black football players behind him — be all that was said about the day's events.

So Moore explained how he was the first Missouri football player to visit the campsite last week. He arrived Wednesday. He made promises to Butler. He spoke to Sherrils, his roommate, the next day. And the two of them took their ideas to Simon and Harris on Thursday. Two days later, a boycott was on.

"Our plan was to use our platform to make a difference and stand behind Jonathan," Moore said. "That's what we did at the end of the day. I made a promise to him."

The wide receiver disengaged from reporters soon after. And Harris, overhearing the conversation, became peeved.

"Was that football-related?" Harris asked with mild frustration in his voice, knowing the answer was no.

Rules these days are difficult to navigate.

Players have been establishing their own precedent. Now, they make their own rules. Monday was supposed to be their media day, when they would publicly discuss the protest. Come Monday afternoon, they weren't in the mood.

Only coach Gary Pinkel and Mack Rhoades officially spoke to media. Pinkel said it was the players' choice not to speak and that he'd let them do what they wished.  

Meanwhile, an impromptu two-minute statement was all the players offered.

When the players emerged from the Center for Student Involvement, Shelby Parnell, an original member of Concerned Student 1950, told media there was no story. And players said they'd speak only at the campsite, where they delivered their statement. They said the statement was on behalf of the whole team — despite less than half of the team being present.

Simon, a senior safety from Texas, read as he looked down at a phone.

"It is not about us," he said. "We just want to use our platform to take a stand. As fellow concerned students on an issue, especially as a fellow black man's life was on the line."

His teammates stood behind him, alternating between dropping their heads and looking forward with tents to their backs.

"Due to the end of the hunger strike movement, we will be ending our solidarity strike of not practicing and returning to our normal schedule as football players," Simon continued. "It is a privilege to play for the University of Missouri's football team, and we are very thankful for that opportunity. We love the game, but at the end of the day, it is just that, a game. Through this experience we've really began to bridge the gap between student and athlete and the phrase 'student athlete.' By connecting with the community and realizing the bigger picture, we will continue to build with the community and support positive change on Mizzou's campus. Though we don't experience everything the general student body does, and our struggles may look different at times, we are all Concerned Student 1950."

Harris said the team's actions should prove to athletes around the country they hold power. And while some of the drama surrounding the Tigers is now settled, the team didn't want to supply much information Monday.

About two hours before, Pinkel and Rhoades gave their own statements. They fielded questions for more than 40 minutes and said this protest was about making sure a student didn't die of hunger.

It was a media session unlike most. Missouri had an athletics staff member man the door, not allowing any reporters into the Missouri Athletic Training Complex until 2:30 p.m.. Media had to sign in once they entered the building — also not typical procedure. But the team's actions brought international media here. And the press conference began at 3:45 p.m.

"They want to get more involved with the campus," Pinkel said of his players. "I think that's a positive."

Earlier in the day, when news of Wolfe's resignation broke, some football players were on Carnahan Quadrangle. They stood near the center of a growing circle of people. They cheered with everyone else. They stood near each other with smiles on their face. Moore danced to chants.

As he left the quad, a woman thanked him and his teammates for their boycott.

When asked about the situation then, around noon, Moore said he wouldn't talk until 4 p.m.

By that time, he was in the student center helping prepare a statement, continuing to navigate his way through a movement that feels not yet finished.

Supervising editor is Mark Selig.

  • Aaron is the Missourian's sports columnist. He has covered the Missouri football team for the Missourian, as well as high school sports. He has also worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette and the Houston Chronicle.

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