Mike Jones, who starred at the University of Missouri and won a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams, has felt a wide range of emotions this week, as racial tensions at his alma mater have led to the resignations of university president Tim Wolfe and chancellor R. Bowen Loftin.
“It’s been all over the place,” Jones, a former linebacker, said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “You look at it as a former player, and you’re proud that they all stood together (with what) they decided to do. As an African-American parent, I got a daughter in school now, so you want them in a safe environment. You don’t want anything going on. As a coach, you have to support your players because if you don’t support your players – Coach (Gary) Pinkel would have never gotten those guys back if he didn’t support them. So there’s a lot of different angles you can look at it, but unfortunately two guys lost their jobs because of the situation. Hopefully they can resolve the problems of it down there.”
Jones, who made the game-saving tackle on Titans receiver Kevin Dyson to preserve a win in Super Bowl XXXIV, played at Missouri in the late-1980s and early-1990s. There have been recent claims that systematic racism exists at Missouri, but Jones didn’t quite have that experience as a student-athlete.
“No, I won’t sit here and say that it was,” he said. “The environment as a football player is different as a student, I’ve got to be honest with you. Because for one, you’re in a controlled environment. We have study hall at a certain time, practice at a certain time, meetings at a certain time. So the life of an average student as a student-athlete is totally different. So for me to sit here and say I have experienced racism and things like that at the University of Missouri, I can’t say that. I had plenty of friends that were white that was on the team in the same situation. So I wouldn’t say I’ve sat there and experienced things as a black man at the University of Missouri that was racism. But like I said, I was a student-athlete and it was a little bit different because of the environment I was in.”
That said, Jones remembers hearing rumblings from his friends who were not student-athletes.
“Oh, absolutely,” Jones said. “Absolutely. It’s a little different when you’re a student and you have a lot more free time to go around different places – good and bad. So there were guys that I knew that I went to school with that weren’t student-athletes that faced that, but for the most part, I didn’t have any racist remarks sent to me or anything like that.”
Whatever happened – and whatever will happen – Jones is proud of Missouri’s football team for uniting and taking a stand.
“I was proud (that) all those guys on that team made a decision and they moved forward,” Jones said. “They were going to be tough decisions. I’m not going to say they were right or wrong, but they’re tough decisions that they had to make. They made a decision, they stuck with it and that’s what I was proud about – them staying together. It’s not easy for young men to make a decision like that and stay together, and that’s what they did.”