Monday November 9th, 2015

Former University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam offered support on Monday for the group of football players who have gone on strike in protest of state university system president Tim Wolfe.

“Today was just one more step forward, that it’s true we can still come together in any circumstance,” Sam told reporters on Monday. “People forget the power of sports. This is just one step. This is just another thing that sports can do.”

Wolfe announced his resignation on Monday morning. He had been the subject of criticism for his handling of several racially charged incidents on campus. Students, the football team and Missouri lawmakers are among those who have called for Wolfe to resign or be fired.

On Saturday, a group of black Missouri players announced that they would not be taking part in any football–related activities until Wolfe resigned or was fired from his position as president of the university. In a statement released by Missouri’s Legion of Black Collegians, Wolfe’s “negligence toward marginalized students’ experiences” is cited as as the reasoning behind the protest.

Missouri graduate student Jonathan Butler went on a hunger strike last Monday in opposition of Wolfe. Sam said he visited Butler to bring him water on Wednesday.

“There was nobody here” Sam said. “Two tents and a reporter. Things change when sports gets involved.”

Other Missouri players and coaches later followed suit, with head coach Gary Pinkel saying that the team was “united” in its support for the strike. 

Sam became the first openly gay player to be drafted in the NFL in 2014 after earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors. He told his Missouri teammates that he was gay before the 2013 season, his senior year with the Tigers.

The Rams drafted Sam in the seventh round but waived him at the end of training camp last season. The defensive end spent part of 2014 on the practice squad for the Dallas Cowboys. He signed with the CFL's Montreal Alouettes in May before deciding to step away from football.

The Tigers will face BYU at home on Nov. 14.

Missouri head coach supportive of players on strike

- Xandria James

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.