Five ways to promote racial justice in college sports


On May 25, George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was brutally murdered at the hands of the Minneapolis police. The extreme terror and anguish conveyed by this videotaped state assassination is being felt by many, around the world, and is compounded by the recent murders of Nina Pop, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, among many others. This inhumane and ongoing police violence and terrorism serves as a painful reminder that, as a nation, we have an incredible amount of work ahead of us to adequately respond to structural forms of antiblackness.

I use the term antiblackness here because black people have to endure a coordinated and relentless assault on their bodies and their human existence. There is a fundamental and strong opposition to blacks, and they do not have much human value, if they have any, through the white gaze. The result is what I characterize as the gap of humanity.

In the wake of George Floyd’s last breath, as waves of protests and rebellions sweep across the nation, major sports organizations are tweeting assorted statements of support and solidarity, condemning racism against blacks. NCAA President Mark Emmert said that Floyd’s murder “exposed the continuing existence of inequality and injustice in America.” He added that “we must, therefore, individually and collectively commit ourselves to examine what we can do to make our society fairer and more egalitarian.”

The NCAA declaration, like so many others, is just the beginning. Without a clear and explicit call to action, the declarations are empty and not enough. We cannot blindly, naively, and uncritically think that the NCAA and its member institutions — and other externalities, such as corporate sponsors — have not benefited enough from the fight against blackness and the exploitative structural arrangement in college athletics.

Despite the fact that black college athletes, who, in 2016-2017, formed 55% of NCAA Division I football teams and 56% of Division I basketball teams: spend a significant amount of time on practices, travel, team meetings, and competition, and They are often exposed to life-threatening and life-altering injuries. compensated for their work or for the economic value they create. They are also not adequately prepared for life after sports or school-to-career transitions – in a recent study, only 55.2% Of black athletes graduated within six years, compared to 69.3% of athletes overall.

The NCAA and its member institutions have an obligation to move beyond hollow performative statements and wholeheartedly commit to an agenda that understands organizational issues in radically different ways and that promotes racial equity and justice in practical and thoughtful ways.

Some changes will require minimal labor and costs; others will certainly require heavy lifting, short and long-term resources, and financial investments. To enact the collective values ​​and aspirations represented in the statements issued by the NCAA and its member institutions, schools must be willing to dedicate and even reallocate adequate funds to address racial inequalities within their organizations, particularly at this time of state budget cuts. and financial problems. . And, if racial equity and justice are truly a priority, schools must also be willing to make the necessary changes in leadership positions and roles.

“We haven’t done enough – we can do better,” admitted NCAA President Emmert in his statement.

Instead of vague promises and hypocritical statements, the NCAA and its member institutions have the potential to deliver. These organizations can develop and enact crucial, measurable policy and organizational changes to begin to address rampant antipathy, including structural norms, values, and cultures that produce and reproduce inequitable outcomes. The time has come for schools to reinvent their commitment and collective support for blacks.

Here are five shared commitments that the NCAA and its member institutions can and should make to respond to the fight against blackness and promote racial equity and justice in college athletics:

1. Understand and acknowledge the fight against blackness, rather than ignoring its existence and its effects on political and practical decisions in athletics.

Athletic staff should share a similar passion and interest in fighting for racial justice as they do for recruiting elite black athletes. A complex engagement aimed at understanding the history of anti-blackness and racial harm experienced by blacks is imperative. Athletics stakeholders and advocates for blacks must understand, acknowledge, and actively work to disrupt various forms of deep structures against blacks, which have been intentionally designed to protect, accumulate, and sustain the power of primarily white men. .

There should be an urgent push for athletic stakeholders to work closely with educators and professionals (those who are racially literate) to initiate and design professional development trainings and workshops that include sessions on the black college athlete. Interactive and experimental sessions on black athletic bodies and their histories, blackness, and what it means to exist as fully human, for example, would facilitate intergroup dialogue and foster cross-cultural understanding of the types of conscious and unconscious biases and discriminatory attitudes directed toward Blacks in athletics. Trainings and workshops alone are not the answer to tackle the fight against blackness; rather, they should be seen as a phase of this important work.

2. Prepare black athletes to Quality transitions from school to career..

Black athletes have fewer opportunities than their non-athlete peers to achieve their academic goals and participate in the broader academic community with other students. Investigate shows that athletes dedicate an average of 50 hours per week during the season to sports-related activities. These athletic demands structurally inhibit intentional participation in educational activities that are critical to receiving a significant education. Engagement activities may include (but are not limited to) freshman seminars, internships, study abroad, undergraduate research projects, meaningful interactions with faculty, and community-based learning.

3. Allow college athletes to monetize the use of their names, pictures, and likenesses.

The current athletic model does not fairly compensate athletes for their work and prohibits them from earning money from their names, pictures, and likenesses. The research is compelling: Whites tend to express more opposite views than their non-black counterparts when it comes to paying or increasing financial compensation for black college athletes. At a minimum, an evidence-based equitable model should be implemented that allows athletes the same rights as all other college students enjoying basic economic freedom.

4. Increase black representation in senior leadership and coaching positions.

A recent study revealed that in the 2018-2019 academic year more than 80% of athletic directors were white, 86.2% of football head coaches were white, and 80% of the Power Five conference commissioners were white. The lack of black coaches and high-level leaders, including black women, sends the signal to black members of the campus that schools are not places of belonging, inclusion and affirmation.

5. Ensure that black athletes have a voice in the decisions of the NCAA board of directors.

Critics claim that the NCAA has used the ideals of amateurism to justify athletic scholarships as sufficient compensation, yet college athletes have little or no say in the decision-making process. Black athletes would benefit from a seat at the table. Greater representation would allow for active participation in the decisions of the NCAA board of directors for opportunities to challenge the decisions of the NCAA and enhance the quality of your experience as students participating in sports.

These daring fair minded The commitments are the beginning of a long and ongoing process for the NCAA and its member institutions. By focusing on the needs of black people, schools can offer a more complete picture and analysis that addresses and challenges structural antiblackness, while creating new transformative possibilities for racial equity and justice in athletics. When protests and collective resistance against police terrorism and racial injustices subside, and the public media turns their attention to other news and articles, the NCAA and member institutions must commit to continuing and transforming the present.

My next book is Organized Captivity: Control, Hypervigilance, and Disposition of Black Athletes at the Corporate University.


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