Missouri legislator proposes bill that would revoke scholarships if players strike

— -- JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A state legislator is proposing that student-athletes lose their scholarships if they go on strike, in response to a threat by Missouri Tigers football players to not play because of criticism of the administration's handling of racial discrimination complaints on campus.

The bill proposed by Republican Rep. Rick Brattin last week in the Missouri House of Representatives would strip scholarships from any athlete who "calls, incites, supports or participates in any strike." Colleges and universities would be required to fine coaching staff members who encourage or enable such student protests.

University of Missouri athletic department spokesman Ryan Bradley didn't respond Monday to requests for comment from The Associated Press.

The bill could face challenges because the Missouri athletic department operates on its own revenue and not on state funds, according to the university student-athlete handbook.

Brattin wasn't immediately available to comment, but Rep. Kurt Bahr, the co-sponsor of the bill, said his goal is to show that some state lawmakers don't approve of how University of Missouri administrators handled student unrest. Bahr said he hopes this bill fosters discussion between the legislature and university leadership.

The aim is to show "the response that they've had has not been as strong as the legislature would like," said Bahr, a St. Charles Republican, "and that we, the General Assembly, expect the leadership of this state institution to actually lead and not allow the students to call the shots."

The Columbia campus gained national attention in November after members of the football team backed calls by a student on a hunger strike for former University of Missouri system president Tim Wolfe to resign or be removed. At issue was Wolfe's administration's handling of racial discrimination complaints.

Graduate student Jonathan Butler refused to eat and football players threatened to not play until Wolfe stepped down, which he did Nov. 9. R. Bowen Loftin, former chancellor of the Columbia campus, also announced his resignation that day.

Brattin's bill is one of a number proposed in response to the unrest at the university. Republican budget leaders have said state funding for the university will be under greater scrutiny in the legislative session that begins Jan. 6.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.