That Time When Women & Football Players United

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Monday after students and student-athletes at the University
of Missouri raged against the machines of racism and institutional complacency
with nonviolent protests, they got the change they desired; Timothy Wolfe
resigned from his post as President of the University.  His tone deaf resignation helped many
understand exactly why the activists called for his removal and leaves many
anxiously awaiting the future to see if the genuine change the community seeks materializes.
Now I could go on and on about the courage it took for the black football
players to risk their scholarships, transferability and safety in the name of justice
because it really was a courageous, mature thing to do.  I could write ad nauseam about the true power
that athletes (students and professionals) possess to change their world
outside of sports.  And of course I could
write feverishly about the economics of college sports and how the NCAA
marginalizes student-athletes.  But I’m
not going to do any of that because there are a lot of great writers who are already
giving you insight on those topics more.
Instead, I’m going to ask for just a little bit of your time to
introduce you to two women.  

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Meet University of Missouri students Ayanna Poole (bottom) and
Danielle Walker (top).  While Poole and Walker
have not had a great deal of limelight in comparison to others involved in the
struggle for racial justice at the University of Missouri, they have been
highly instrumental in the fight.   They
are, in fact, a large part of the reason that we know who Jonathan
Butler
is and why the Mizzou football players decided to take a stand.  These two women helped form Concerned Student
1950, a group named in remembrance for the first year black students were
admitted to the University.  Concerned
Student 1950 have hosted rallies and promoted the movement on social media.  Poole and Walker have been rallying,
protesting, writing and reciting poetry for change on Mizzou’s campus for the months
and months
that led up to Wolfe’s resignation. No, they aren’t
student-athletes themselves.  It is very
likely that they know little about the taxing life of a student-athlete, but it
is their refusal to accept the status quo that encouraged the Mizzou football
players to take a stand.  It is their
vision and steadfastness that helped make Mizzou a topic of discussion for
something other sports.  For that, they
should be recognized.  

Unfortunately, I don’t have much more information to give
you about these two ladies but their actions, the actions of Mr. Butler and the
actions of the black football players (and the support of their coaches and
teammates) make one thing clear, change happens collectively and broadly.  Poole and Walker’s fight for justice required
the help of someone willing to go on a hunger strike.  Their fight in turn required the help of
athletes who were willing to risk their livelihoods.  What started as a fight for racial justice at
the University of Missouri has begun conversations about the power and the position
of students on college campuses and in other settings.  It has reignited conversations about the
perceived injustices in NCAA athletics and encouraged activists in other
movements to reexamine their strategies.
That’s why working with people who don’t have exactly the same
experiences and strategies is so important; you get a broader, more effective
movement.  Everyone should take
note.  If you want to improve the status
of women, of people in the LGBT community, of the homeless, of immigrants, of
children, of any marginalized group; think collectively and with those whose
walk in life might take them down a path that is different than yours. That’s how you get change.   

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