Midstate legends say sports can influence social change

Mack Rhoades, Gary Pinkel
Missouri Athletics Director Mack Rhoades, left, and head football coach Gary Pinkel address the media Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, in Columbia, Mo. Football will resume at Missouri following the resignation of University of Missouri system president Tim Wolfe after several members of the team, pointing to Wolfe’s inaction in handling of racial tensions at the school, announced over the weekend that they would not play until the president was gone. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Hundreds of students who attend the University of Missouri in Columbia, say they were alarmed by the lack of urgency in the response of President Tim Wolfe regarding racially charged incidents on campus.

The football team announced that they would boycott Saturday’s game against Brigham Young University, if changes didn’t take place. Earlier this week, Wolf resigned, citing that he hopes his departure will generate open discussion and change.

George Chaump coached the John Harris High School football team during the civil right era. He says sports has the influence to make social change, especially major college athletics, and he was not surprised by the resignation. “It got a lot of attention from a lot of people,” said Chaump, “If they didn’t play that game, it would have cost them millions.”

Harrisburg native Jimmy Jones was the first African-American quarterback to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated. Jones led the University of Southern California to a win against an all-white university of Alabama team in 1970. Jones says the win has an impact on social change across the board. “At that point in time, there were no black athletes in the in those schools,” said Jones, “After that game, there was a significant growth with black athletes.”

Richard Utley graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1972. He says there was segregation on campus, and he gave the chancellor a list of changes needed to bring diversity to the school. “We would like to see campus police and professors who looked like us,” said Utley, “We felt it was important to have blacks in those positions who could relate to us.”

Utley says social change begins with an honest conversation. “When you start making demands, it becomes a confrontation, and normally things don’t get done,” said Utley, “if both sides listen, there is a better chance for results.”

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