A Dubious Narrative Contributed to the NFL Protests

Jillian Kay Melchior, Wasll Street Journal, February 1 2018

When the University of Missouri’s football team vowed to stay off the field until administrators met the demands of student protesters, defensive end Charles Harris grasped the national implications earlier than most. {snip}

Mr. Harris, who now plays for the Miami Dolphins, heeded his own call. Last September he locked arms with other players in a show of support for four teammates who knelt during the national anthem.

But public records obtained through the Missouri Freedom of Information Act suggest that the Mizzou protests, like the riots in Ferguson a year earlier, might have been inspired in part by a false narrative. {snip}

On Martin Luther King Day in 2016, Mr. Butler delivered a keynote address at Kansas City’s Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, in which he described two instances in which he claimed he had been personally targeted at Mizzou because of his race.

“Being on campus, I’ve seen the N-word spray-painted on my door,” Mr. Butler said. “I’ve experienced white students who have jumped me during the President Obama’s election night. . . . I was jumped by three white students on campus.” Mr. Butler said such behavior “allowed to be going on, on campus—let me make that very clear, was allowed to be going on, on campus.”

But an exhaustive review of law-enforcement records showed no sign of the incidents Mr. Butler described.

{snip} Neither the university police department nor the Columbia, Mo., city police received any report of an incident where Mr. Butler’s door, residence or property was vandalized. Furthermore, neither police department has any record of Mr. Butler being jumped, assaulted, attacked or otherwise physically harmed by students as he described at any time between January 2008 and May 2016, when he departed the university.

{snip}

There was no record of the racist assault or vandalism Mr. Butler described. It’s possible that the incidents happened and he didn’t report them—but in that case there is no basis for his claim that the university “allowed” the incidents to occur.

{snip}

On Nov. 3, 2015, the day Mr. Butler claimed to launch his hunger strike, the university president’s chief of staff, Zora Mulligan, sent an email to several administrators. “I heard through the grapevine that [Mr. Butler] has agreed to take one meal a day,” she wrote. “True?” Ms. Mulligan later told me she was never able to determine for sure whether Mr. Butler was eating during his hunger strike.

Administrators also received reports of food going into the tent where Mr. Butler camped out on the quad alongside other student protesters, as well as rumors that he was eating. They struggled to substantiate them.

A source who had direct contact with Mr. Butler throughout the hunger strike told me: “He was wearing sweatshirts, so very loose-fitting. He had water there, had a hoarse voice, but wasn’t noticeably weak or falling down or dizzy. {snip}”

Maxwell Little, a member of the protest group Concerned Student 1950, dismissed questions about whether Mr. Butler had been dishonest about the hunger strike. “He’s a good guy,” Mr. Little told me. {snip}

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