Mo Rep speaks about bill penalizing athletes for refusing to play

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JEFFERSON CITY - Rep. Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville) withdrew his bill Wednesday that would have stripped student athletes of their scholarships for refusing to play without a medical reason. 

Rep. Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville) filed the bill saying "any college athlete on scholarship who refuses to play for a reason unrelated to health shall have his or her scholarship revoked."

Rep. Brattin released a statement after wihdrawing his bill. 

“My bill was filed to generate discussion on what I believe is an extremely important topic and one that deserves deliberate consideration. While I am withdrawing the legislation, I hope the conversation will continue so that we can take steps to ensure the University of Missouri is providing a stable, positive learning environment for our young people. I sincerely believe students should be able to express their viewpoints, but I also believe our flagship state university has to keep and maintain the order this is expected from such an esteemed educational institution.”

Following the filing of the bill on Monday, Missouri Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Brandon Ellington (D-Kansas City) released a statement saying he believes the bill punishes college athletes for free speech. 

“House Bill 1743 seeks to further solidify and legalize institutional racism by targeting black athletes for exercising their constitutional rights to free speech and reducing them to the status of subjugated livestock.

The bill’s sponsors, Republicans Rick Brattin and Kurt Bahr, demonstrate a mentality toward racism that unfortunately is shared by too many Missourians. It is a mentality under which racism and institutionalized injustice are ignored and black Missourians who shatter that blissful ignorance by forcefully speaking out must be silenced. 

This legislation is motivated by racism and contemptuous of free speech. It has no place among the laws of a just society.”

KOMU 8 News spoke to a member of the MU Track and Field team who said she thinks the bill is in retaliation to the MU Football Team's boycott in November. The football team said it refused to participate in any athletic activities until MU graduate student Johnathan Butler ended his hunger strike. Butler began a hunger strike calling for the removal of UM System President Tim Wolfe in November.

In response to the bill's withdrawl, Rep. Ellington (D-Kansas City) released the following statement.

“Representative Rick Brattin made the correct decision in withdrawing House Bill 1743, but this unconstitutional legislation never should have been filed in the first place. Seeking to punish those who peacefully take a stand against racial injustice violates not only the constitutional right to free speech but the values we hold as Missourians. Given the overwhelmingly negative response to his misguided and offensive proposal, I hope Representative Brattin finally understands that.”

[Editor's note: this story has been updated to include statements from Rep. Ellington and Rep. Brattin.]