NAACP Calls for Black Student Athletes to Avoid Florida Colleges

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Following a string of anti-DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) policies in Florida that recently led to the University of Florida (UF) eliminating all DEI-related positions, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) penned an open letter aimed at current and future Black student athletes urging them to reconsider playing for predominantly White, public institutions in the state.

“This is not about politics,” the letter reads. “It’s about the protection of our community, the progression of our culture, and most all, it’s about your education, and your future.”

The NAACP’s letter comes just days after NFL Hall of Famer and UF alumni Emmitt Smith released a statement condemning the university’s firing of DEI employees. Both the NAACP and Smith noted that the elimination of diversity efforts constitutes a failure to support students of color. 

“We cannot continue to believe and trust that a team of leaders all made up of the same background will make the right decision when it comes to equality and diversity. History has already proven that is not the case,” Smith’s statement reads. “We need diverse thinking and backgrounds to enhance our university and the DEI department is necessary to accomplish those goals. …To the many minority athletes at UF, please be aware and vocal about this decision by the university who is now closing the doors on other minorities without any oversight.”

Leaders at the NAACP pointed out the fact that Division I schools like UF earn a considerable amount of revenue from their football and basketball programs, which have a high percentage of Black student athletes. The association’s letter mentions that if fewer Black students chose to play at these schools it would cost them television deals and ticket and merchandising sales, resulting in monetary losses for their athletic departments and the universities as a whole.

“This imbalance of power and profit demands a response, particularly because these institutions reap considerable financial benefits from the very individuals they fail to stand by in matters of [DEI],” the letter reads. “If any institution is to reap the benefits of Black talent, it is only right that they completely invest in Black futures.”

In the letter, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson stated that large public universities that profit from Black athletes have the responsibility to support students of color through DEI programming. 

“UF, and other public institutions, have the opportunity to be more than sports powerhouses. They can be leaders in fostering a wholly supportive educational environment for all students,” the letter reads. “Until that happens, it’s up to each individual — and the broader community — to hold these institutions accountable. We all have a choice, and it starts with where we choose to stand, where we play, what we support, and where we refuse to compromise in the pursuit of equity and respect for all student-athletes.”