State Representative Rick Brattin (R-Harrsionville) pre-filed House Bill 1743 (co-sponsored by Kurt Bahr (R-O’Fallon)) on Friday, December 11th. The bill will revoke any scholarship offered to student-athletes who refuse to play a game for any reason other than health reasons. The bill is pictured below.
The crux of the bill is between lines 2 and 3:
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.
There are several reasons this bill should never make it to the Floor of the House.
1. It is just an overreaction to the realization of student-athletes that they actually have some power. Co-sponsor Bahr said the bill is “obviously in reaction to the athletes who were saying they weren’t going to play to what they considered to be social issues on campus.” As Representative Brandon Ellington (D-Kansas City) said in a statement, the bill seeks to “further solidify and legalize institutional racism” and reduce players to the status of “subjugated livestock”.
2. It reinforces the idea that student-athletes are nothing more than bodies on the field, whose sole purpose is to entertain. It forgets that “student” part of “student-athlete”. As Ian Simon, a senior captain for the football team, told the Columbia Missourian, “I’m more than just a football player… Our sport is just a small part of who we are”. He went on to say that “I don’t just wear a helmet on Saturdays and disappear the other six days of the week”.
3. The MU athletic department self-funds, so it doesn’t receive public funds. The athletic scholarships come from ticket and merchandising sales. The MU Student-Athlete Handbook notes “The University of Missouri does not receive state appropriated funds to operate its intercollegiate athletics programs, thus, similar to private business, the Mizzou Athletics Department must operate solely from what revenue it generates.”
4. The MU Student-Athlete Handbook also says that “any renewal, reduction, or cancellation of an athletics scholarship is made at the discretion of the coach and the Director of Athletics”, not the State Legislature.
5. If the State Legislature wants to assume they have power in the running of a public university like Mizzou, they should first fund it like a public university. Funding for higher education from the state has been stagnant over the past 8 years. Missouri ranks 44th in higher education appropriations per $1,000 of personal income and 47th in higher education appropriations per capita.
6. Even the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) called the law “deplorable” and that they “stand against it”. Member of the NFLPA’s Executive Comittee, Benjamin Watson (Tight End-New Orleans Saints) said in a statement that the “proposed legislation is clearly an attempt to silence student athletes by threatening to take away their education”.
I believe this bill fails to recognize the fact that student-athletes are not simply given their scholarships, they earn them. And it should take significant explanation to justify taking them away.
Will Representative Brattin pre-file another bill that mandates all students who skip class to be stripped of their academic scholarships? Will student-athletes have their scholarships revoked if they don’t play to a certain standard? What other stipulations will be a violation of a contract? Will elected officials be sanctioned for proposing legislation in which the State has no jurisdiction? What punishment will the government face when it stops representing the voice and will of the people and protecting their rights, thus breaking the 300 year-old Social Contract?
There is no precedent for HB 1743. There is just a desire to punish students for standing up to the system which dehumanized them.
UPDATE: 16 December 2015
Representative Brattin withdrew HB 1743 without comment.
Co-sponsor Bahr commented to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that “Unfortunately, it’s going to be seen as a coup by those who opposed the bill.”
-Brian (Twitter: @iambriam)