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Two Missouri university students withdraw over video appearing to mock George Floyd's death

In a separate incident, Marquette University in Wisconsin rescinded its admission offer to a student who compared an officer's kneeling on Floyd to athletes' kneeling during the national anthem.
Image: University of Missouri campus
Students walk along on the campus of the University of Missouri in Columbia in November 2015.Michael B. Thomas / Getty Images file

Two incoming students at Missouri public universities have withdrawn from their schools after a video they were involved in appeared to mock the death of George Floyd.

And in a separate incident, Marquette University in Wisconsin rescinded an admission offer to a student over social media comments that compared a police officer's kneeling on Floyd to athletes' kneeling during the national anthem.

In the video by the Missouri students, one girl who is held down on a couch by another girl laughs and says, "I can't breathe." Both girls appear to be white.

Floyd, who was black, died May 25 in Minneapolis police custody after Officer Derek Chauvin, who was fired later, held his knee on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes. In a video, Floyd says as he is pinned down: "Please, please, please. I can't breathe."

Chauvin, who is white, was arrested and charged Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter. The murder charge was upgraded to second-degree murder Wednesday.

One of the girls in the social media video was going to attend the University of Missouri and the other one Missouri State University. In posts addressing the video, the schools said the students decided to withdraw.

"Given the similarity to the recent death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the video is both shocking and disturbing," Mun Choi, president of the University of Missouri System, said in an email to the campus community.

The university, which was roiled by its own racial protests in 2015, suspended the person who was involved and launched a civil rights investigation into the video before the student rescinded her enrollment.

Full coverage of George Floyd's death and protests around the country

"We have received numerous emails and social media posts from members of our community and the public who felt hurt and dehumanized by the video. The student made the decision today to rescind enrollment at Mizzou and will no longer be attending," Choi said in his letter.

Clif Smart, president of Missouri State University, wrote a blog post addressing the video and a second incident in which an incoming student used a racial slur while "engaging in a social media exchange" with a black student from her high school.

"Many of you have reached out to share the hurt, anger and disbelief you experienced upon watching the video. It demonstrates a disturbing lack of empathy and respect for the death of Mr. Floyd, his family and others who have suffered similarly while in police custody," Smart wrote. "Many others have expressed anger and disbelief at the nature and tone of the hurtful social media posts."

Smart said that he was "horrified" over the incidents and that his first reaction was to rescind the students' admission to the school but that legally he could not do so.

"As a public university we are legally required to uphold the principles of free speech embodied in the First Amendment to the Constitution. The video — as hurtful, insensitive and offensive as it is — is protected by the First Amendment, as was the language in the social media posts," he wrote. "I will admit that it was tempting to ignore the First Amendment in this case."

He went on to say the school was going to allow the students to attend under the condition that they participate in "additional education and training to assist them in both understanding the impact of their actions and in developing cultural competence."

But after "recognizing the impact of the video and the social media post," the students involved in the two incidents decided to withdraw, he said.

In Milwaukee, Marquette University, a private institution, rescinded an admission offer to a student Monday after screenshots of a Snapchat post in which she commented on Floyd's death were widely condemned.

The incoming freshman appeared to compare the officer's kneeling on Floyd to athletes' kneeling during the national anthem, according to screenshots shared online, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

"Some ppl think it's ok to f------ kneel during the national anthem so it's ok to kneel on someone's head," the post read, according to The Sentinel. "come at me. y'all brainwashed."

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Lynn Griffith, a spokeswoman for the Jesuit university, said in a statement to NBC News that the school was notified Friday that an incoming freshman "made offensive comments on social media related to" Floyd's death.

The university subsequently found racially offensive language in other social media posts, the statement said.

Following an internal review, the university decided to rescind the student's offer of admission and her athletics scholarship, effective immediately.

"As a Catholic, Jesuit institution, we are called to build a nurturing, inclusive community where all people feel safe, supported, welcomed and celebrated," the statement said.