A little over a week ago, two Missouri state representatives put forth a bill that “would require colleges to revoke scholarships held by healthy student-athletes” who decline to participate in their respective sport(s).
The legislation also calls for fines against coaches “who endorse such actions.”
The bill is a reaction against the University of Missouri football team, which in early November threatened to boycott the remainder of its games unless the college president resigned.
President Tim Wolfe ended up doing just that.
“Any college athlete who calls, incites, supports, or participates in any strike or concerted refusal to play a scheduled game shall have his or her scholarship revoked,” the bill reads. “Any member of a coaching staff who encourages or enables a college athlete to engage in (such) behavior … shall be fined by his or her institution of employment.”
The bill’s sponsors say there is no violation of students’ free speech rights.
State Rep. Rick Brattin, a Harrisonville Republican, filed the legislation, H.B. 1743, on Friday. State Rep. Kurt Bahr, an O’Fallon Republican, is a co-sponsor.
Bahr said the incident prompted him to re-examine the relationship between student-athletes and the universities where they play.
“The student has a right to protest or to make their voice heard,” he said. “But if they have a contract to perform certain duties, and they violate that contract … then it’s not an issue of the First Amendment. It’s an issue of contract law. They failed to uphold that contract.”
Most U.S. universities already can cancel an athletic scholarship if a student fails to meet team rules or university policies. The Brattin bill would require universities to revoke scholarships if an otherwise healthy athlete refused to play or urged a player boycott.
Somewhat ironically, early this year Brattin sponsored a bill that would sanction universities if they interfered with student free speech rights.
A potential problem with the current legislation is that Mizzou sports scholarships do not include any taxpayer monies — they’re financed “through a combination of broadcast rights, private donations, ticket sales and merchandising.”
UPDATE: Representative Brattin withdrew his bill the middle of last week “saying he merely sought to spark dialogue about ‘an extremely important topic.'”
“While I am withdrawing the legislation, I hope the conversation will continue so that we can take steps to ensure the University of Missouri is providing a stable, positive learning environment for our young people,” he added.
“I sincerely believe students should be able to express their viewpoints, but I also believe our flagship state university has to keep and maintain the order that is expected from such an esteemed educational institution.”