MANHATTAN, Kansas — Times are changing rapidly in college athletics as athletes are discovering the power they hold.
Case in point: Kansas State University, where former North Dakota State football coaches and an ex-Bison athletic director are in the middle of a threatened player boycott against the school.
Wildcat football players are threatening to boycott all team activities unless the university creates a policy that would allow it to expel students for "openly racist, threatening or disrespectful actions."
Many players announced Saturday, June 27, on Twitter that they'd refuse to participate with the football program unless the university took action against an offensive tweet posted by a Kansas State student.
"We are demanding that Kansas State University put a policy in place that allows a student to be dismissed for displaying openly racist, threatening or disrespectful actions toward a student or groups of students," the players said in a posted letter. "We have resolved that we cannot play, practice or meet until these demands are heard and actions taken. We love Kansas State, but we must stand together and protect all students moving forward."
Their outrage stems from an offensive tweet last week by a self-described conservative student and supporter of Republican president Donald Trump, who wrote on the social media platform, "Congratulations to George Floyd on being drug free for an entire month!"
Jaden McNeil posted the tweet Friday, June 26, on the one-month anniversary of the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis, sparking nationwide protests about police brutality and racial equity.
The post quickly led to athletic director Gene Taylor taking to Twitter to denounce McNeil's words. Taylor was NDSU's athletic director from 2001-14.
"Recent tweets from a K-State student downplaying the Black Lives Matter effort and the tragic and senseless death of George Floyd are disgusting and totally inappropriate and not reflective of who we are as a University or our Athletic Department," Taylor wrote.
Recent tweets from a K-State student downplaying the Black Lives Matter effort and the tragic and senseless death of George Floyd are disgusting and totally inappropriate and not reflective of who we are as a University or our Athletic Department.— Gene Taylor (@KSTATEADGT) June 26, 2020
They are not reflective of our administration and goals. We are committed to listening and supporting our black athletes, black students and members of our black community and taking positive steps in the matters of social injustice and racism.— Gene Taylor (@KSTATEADGT) June 26, 2020
Football coach Chris Klieman also tweeted Friday in reference to McNeil's post and later added stronger words.
"Racism is NOT welcome at KSTATE now or in the future. On and off the field, as a family, we will make a difference through our ACTION. I am excited to help every player unite for the solution NOW, so that that we can come together stronger than ever. Black Lives Matter," Klieman posted Sunday, June 28.
Klieman was the Bison's head coach from 2014-18 and an assistant for two seasons prior to that.
University administration, including school president Richard Myers, said they are looking into their options regarding the offensive tweet.
Myers said, "divisive statements do not represent the values of our university."
The situation at Kansas State is the latest action by college athletes who have tried to push social justice.
Oklahoma State star running back Chuba Hubbard two weeks ago called out head coach Mike Gundy for wearing a T-shirt depicting the logo of far-right television news channel One America News Network, which has called the Black Lives Matter movement "a farce." Gundy met with Hubbard and said he would make changes.
Our program and our coaches will continue to be part of the solution when it comes to racial injustice. I love our players and they know I have their backs.— Chris Klieman (@CoachKli) June 26, 2020
Racism is NOT welcome at KSTATE now or in the future. On and off the field, as a family, we will make a difference through our ACTION.— Chris Klieman (@CoachKli) June 29, 2020
I am excited to help every player unite for the solution NOW, so that that we can come together stronger than ever.
Black Lives Matter.
Mississippi State star running back Kylin Hill last week threatened to leave the program if Mississippi didn't change its state flag, the only remaining flag featuring the Confederate battle emblem. Both houses of the Mississippi Legislature voted Sunday to replace the flag, something that days before Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said he didn't think was viable. Reeves now says he'll sign the bill to replace the state flag.
Those who pay close attention to college athletics, and actually spend time dealing with the athletes and administrators, know and feel that the past year has brought remarkable change to the landscape. Whether it was more lenient transfer rules or being paid for schools using their image or likeness, the power in college athletics is shifting.
Yes, it's still run by television networks, apparel companies and wealthy college presidents, athletic directors and coaches. But athletes are realizing they have power, too, and can affect change by threatening to leave a school or boycott a program.
Folks, the strongest stubborn bastion of a traitorous Confederacy that ended 155 years ago was pushed into modern times by a lone college athlete saying, "Enough." Imagine what would happen if hundreds or thousands of college athletes, particularly those in the big-money land of NCAA Division I, said, "Enough."
Without college athletes, there is no college athletics.
The former NDSU athletic director and ex-Bison coaches at Kansas State are getting a taste right now.