When the Missouri football team walked about 1,000 steps in a peaceful march on Wednesday, it marked the beginning of a plan for the Tigers to take matters into their own hands.
“It’s not an us versus them. It’s all of us versus racism,” Missouri head football coach Eliah Drinkwitz said. “It is an us thing and by us participating in the walk, we’re all behind the fact that we are committed to equality.”
The approximately half mile walk from the columns, the University’s most recognized landmark on campus, to the Boone County Courthouse marked a significant stride in the team’s call to action for justice.
Players and coaches kneeled for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to honor George Floyd, who died after a police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25.
Drinkwitz said, “This was a clear instance of right versus wrong. We tell our players when something is wrong, stand up against it. What happened to George Floyd was wrong, and we stand against that and we fight for justice.”
62 student-athletes registered to vote while at the courthouse, some for the first time.
“It meant a lot for our players and our team,” Missouri junior linebacker Nick Bolton said. “We have guys that are 20-plus years old that have never registered to vote. So I felt like in order to make a change or use your voice… the number one step is to get into the voting booth.”
“Voting is about making your voice heard. It’s about creating a more perfect union” Drinkwitz added. “Change is not a sprint. It’s a marathon.”
Drinkwitz said he knew he wanted the team to take concrete steps, especially after he saw the viral video this week of Floyd’s daughter, Gianna Floyd, sitting on former NBA player Stephen Jackson’s shoulders as she lifts her arms and says: “Daddy changed the world.”
“He has, and that’s really what hit me was, he changed the world,” Drinkwitz said. “This conversation is so much different than it’s been in the past, and that’s powerful and it’s changed me, and it’s changed all of us I believe.”
Campus and city police joined in on the march, walking and kneeling with University president Mun Choi, athletic director Jim Sterk, basketball coaches Cuonzo Martin and Robin Pingeton, and athletic department staff members.
“I was proud of them. I was proud of the people around us for giving us the opportunity to do this because at the end of the day, that’s where the change really happens,” Missouri senior defensive lineman Chris Turner said. “We all want to see a change and we’re all willing to do whatever we can to make a positive change in our communities from back home to being here in Columbia.”
Drinkwitz maintained that the Tigers have more in store in the fight for justice.
“It started with the voting box and registering to vote. That’s one start, but there’s going to be more that involves service back to our community, more about creating opportunities and internships with their degree,” Drinkwitz said. “The very mission of college football is that we give young men an opportunity to get a degree because we believe education changes lives.”