Last week, former and current historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU) athletes filed a class-action lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) claiming the organization knowingly discriminated against Black student-athletes at HBCUs when it considered race in its Academic Performance Program (APP).
The APP was initially designed to improve student-athlete academic performance, according to the NCAA’s official policy book. Schools with high scores are rewarded, while those with low scores face penalties that can range from requiring additional practice to banning teams from postseason competition.
“The NCAA’s design and implementation of the APP perpetuates a system that punishes Black student-athletes at HBCUs because of the HBCUs’ unique and historical role in the education of Blacks within the systemic vestiges of discrimination,” the lawsuit states. “In fact, the NCAA has admitted that ‘a higher proportion of HBCU teams have been subject to APP penalties’ than Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs).”
The lawsuit points to the APP’s metric system which is designed to improve graduation performance by requiring NCAA schools to meet benchmarks set by the Academic Progress Rate (APR) and the Graduation Success Rate (GSR).
“The NCAA knew that GSRs for Black student-athletes were 20-30 percentage points lower than for white student-athletes,” plaintiffs J’ta Freeman, Austin Dasent, and Troyce Manassa argued in the lawsuit.
“All schools are not created equal,” Manassa told NPR. “So how you going to hold every school to the same standard if every school doesn’t have the means to live up to those standards?”
Manassa played basketball at Savannah State University with a promising athletic future ahead. However, his basketball career ended early when the NCAA implemented a postseason ban to the team for not meeting APRs from years prior.
HBCU teams are 43 times more likely to receive a postseason ban than a PWI team, according to the lawsuit.
The last notable class-action lawsuit against the NCAA involved the organization agreeing to pay $208 million in a 2017 settlement to thousands of current and former student-athletes who caps imposed upon their scholarships.