More than 60 Missouri football players registered to vote Wednesday as part of the team's call to action following the death of George Floyd while in police custody.
Missouri players led a walk from campus to the Boone County Courthouse in Columbia, Missouri, according to coach Eliah Drinkwitz. Players and coaches kneeled for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to honor Floyd, who died May 25 in Minneapolis after a police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.
Together. ✊🏾✊🏽✊🏿✊🏻 pic.twitter.com/OnVPe31rb6— Mizzou Athletics (@MizzouAthletics) June 3, 2020
Drinkwitz and the football coaching staff joined the players, along with Missouri basketball coaches Cuonzo Martin and Robin Pingeton, athletic department staff members, university system president Mun Choi and members of the Columbia Police Department. Sixty-two players then registered to vote, according to Drinkwitz.
Drinkwitz credited defensive coordinator Ryan Walters, offensive coordinator Curtis Luper and Missouri's other black assistants, as well as the players, for spearheading the walk and the voter-registration push.
"I've got a great, diverse staff and they have a lot of history in some of these issues," Drinkwitz told ESPN Thursday. "What we wanted to make sure is we weren't just making our voices heard through a statement. We want to make lasting change. That's what this is about. It's about making a lasting change and putting a plan into action that's more than just a moment. So it was player- and staff-driven and it was a team just rallying around each other for right versus wrong."
Drinkwitz said some players had to switch their voter registration from their home states to Missouri, while others registered for the first time.
"With all the different ways people are reacting, one of the ways that we felt like was important was to be peaceful and to promote lasting change," he said. "That's where voting comes in. We're not tearing down, we're building up, and that's what that was."
Missouri held a team meeting on Zoom early Wednesday afternoon and told players to meet at The Columns on campus, where they began the walk to the courthouse. University president Mun Choi, athletic director Jim Sterk, coaches Cuonzo Martin and Robin Pingeton, athletic department staff members and campus and city police joined in the walk.
"The most powerful thing is the Columbia police department had 29 volunteers, 29 policemen volunteer their time, and they walked with us and they knelt with us," Drinkwitz said. "We had the MU police department, we had members of the athletics department staff, we had the president of the university. It was a powerful statement of peace and a walk for justice."
Missouri's team is planning other events around social justice and how to combat racism.
"This is not about one statement or one moment," he said. "This is about continued action to promote change and promote equality and promote equal rights."
In 2015, racial tensions escalated at Missouri after several campus incidents and an administrative response that set off protests and widespread criticism. In November 2015, a group of black Missouri football players threatened to boycott games if university president Tim Wolfe did not step down. Gary Pinkel, then Missouri's football coach, voiced his support for the players.
Wolfe resigned days later, and the players did not sit out any games.