Missouri State football leads a march against racism on campus

They needed to be heard.

The Missouri State football team did not practice on Thursday, Aug. 27, and on Friday the team held a march protesting racism in America and on Missouri State’s campus.

Senior safety Titus Wall and senior cornerback Zack Sanders organized the march and day without practice, with the support of the Bears’ coaching staff.

“What can we do to make everything stop and make all the injustice treatment stop?” Sanders asked. “We want to show that we’re coming together as a team, we’re coming together as a university.”

These protests by the team are a part of a larger movement in American sports happening after the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Aug. 23. The NHL and NBA have postponed games in recent days, and a few MLB games and NFL practices have stopped as well.

MSU’s first football opponent, Oklahoma University, held a similar event at the same time on OU’s campus.

Wall said he wants to see people treated equally, regardless of skin color.

“We get judged for the simple fact that our color is different,” Wall said. “It’s something we experienced as little kids, just seeing how people treat you, how people look at you. It’s stuff like that that we’ve gotta bring a change to.”

The march began at the bear statue just north of Robert W. Plaster Stadium and lasted for almost an hour. Athletes from the MSU football team, as well as most other sports, were seen taking part.

For Sanders and Wall, racism has been a lifelong experience.

“We’ll just be walking down the street — minding our business with a group of friends — and all of the sudden you’ll hear someone’s door lock,” Sanders said. “It’s kinda like, ‘Wow, what was the reasoning behind that?’

“The color of our skin shouldn’t threaten anyone at all. You see that stuff as a young kid, and you don’t really realize it. When you get older, you start realizing ‘Oh wow, they did do this action because I am Black and they are afraid of me.’”

The protesters’ chants rang across campus, with phrases such as “Black Lives Matter,” “Mike Brown,” “Breonna Taylor,” “Jacob Blake,” “No justice, no peace” and “I can’t breathe” being heard.

Both protests by the team have been supported by head coach Bobby Petrino and other university officials. MSU President Clif Smart and Director of Athletics Kyle Moats also took part in the march.

“Coach Petrino set all of this up,” Sanders said. “He got a hold of (Kyle Moats), he got a hold of everyone just to get our point across. He wants us to be heard. He’s around young Black males every single day and he sees what’s going on — he hears what’s going on, and I think that’s really important.”

Wall said he and his team are more than just athletes — they have voices.

“We’re not going to keep playing as if we’re not seeing what’s going on in the world,” Wall said. “We’re not going to keep playing as if we have to play football and that’s all we’re doing. We’re not just athletes, we’re going to use our voice. We’re going to use our platform because we’re tired of it.”

Friday’s march appears to be the first in a string of protests, with two more planned for Monday, Aug. 31, and Wednesday, Sept. 2.