Missouri players threaten to strike unless school president removed

A number of African-American players on Missouri’s football team are threatening to no longer participate in football-related activities until university president Tim Wolfe is removed. 

The players released a statement via the school’s Legion of Black Collegians, which read:

The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe “Injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere” 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’ experiences. WE ARE UNITED!!!!!

In the photo, a number of players — including senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers, the nation’s leading tackler — are linking arms with Missouri graduate student Jonathan Butler, who’s on a hunger strike until Wolfe is removed, the Columbia Daily Tribune reports. Butler has not eaten since Monday and met with Wolfe on Friday to discuss the university’s handling of racial harassment cases.

Coach Gary Pinkel made a statement backing the players with a tweet expressing team unity in the protest.

Cornerbacks Anthony Sherrils and John Gibson III and defensive end Charles Harris were among the players who posted messages on Twitter:

In a statement Sunday, Wolfe said:

According to the Washington Post, following months of tension, race relations are reaching a critical state on the Missouri campus. Members of Concerned Student 1950 — which refers to the year the first African-American student was admitted to Missouri — have been spearheading the protest on campus.

Student groups have been critical over how Wolfe has handled issues of race and discrimination, and blocked his car at homecoming in an attempt to speak with him. They have complained that the use of racial slurs is prevalent. In April, a swastika was found in a Missouri dormitory, and officials said last month they were investigating another act of vandalism that targeted minorities.

The campus of 35,448 is mostly white. Approximately 17 percent of the student population identifies with a minority group, according to the university website. The campus is about 120 miles west of Ferguson, the St. Louis suburb where tensions erupted following the police shooting death of 18-year Michael Brown. Brown, who was black, was unarmed when he was shot by a white police officer during a confrontation in a street in August 2014. His death sparked ongoing protests and helped spawn the national "Black Lives Matter" movement rebuking police treatment of minorities.

Former Tigers player T.J. Moe points out Mizzou likely won’t be able to field a team without help from the players threatening to strike.

Of the 64 players listed on Missouri’s depth chart, 42 are African-American, the Daily Tribune reports. Missouri last played Thursday night at home, losing to Mississippi State to fall to 4-5 on the season. The Tigers have three more games left, including next Saturday at home against BYU.

The Missouri athletic department released this statement Saturday night: "The department of athletics is aware of the declarations made tonight by many of our student-athletes. We all must come together with leaders from across our campus to tackle these challenging issues and we support our student-athletes right to do so."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

MORE NEWS: Want stories delivered to you? Sign up for our College Football newsletters.