Anti-DEI, NAACP, BLACK Arkansas

NAACP Challenges Black Student-Athletes To Boycott Public Colleges Over Florida’s Anti-DEI Legislation

Some HBCUs will welcome them with open arms!

NAACP President Derrick Johnson called for Black student-athletes to boycott sports programs following Florida’s ban on state-funded diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. 

The CEO’s letter comes just 10 days after the University of Florida eliminated all diversity, equity, and inclusion positions due to a state rule. The move left close to 30 people unemployed and pushed buttons for prominent alums, including NFL Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith. He issued his thoughts on Twitter, saying he is “utterly disgusted” and that the school’s minority athletes should “be aware and vocal about this decision.”

In a letter to current and future NCAA athletes, Johnson challenged them to “choose wisely.”

“Diversity, equity, and inclusion are paramount to ensuring equitable and effective educational outcomes,” Johnson wrote. “The value Black and other college athletes bring to large universities is unmatched. If these institutions are unable to completely invest in those athletes, it’s time they take their talents elsewhere.”

The letter, co-signed by Leon W. Russell, chair of the NAACP’s National Board of Directors, said the issue goes beyond sports and politics and is more about protecting the “progression of our culture.”

“This is not about politics. It’s about the protection of our community, the progression of our culture, and most of all, it’s about your education and your future,” the letter read. “This is not simply about sports; it’s about acknowledging and advocating for the rights and supports of Black students within educational environments.”

After signing Senate Bill 266 banning public colleges and universities from using state or federal funding for diversity programs, failed presidential candidate and governor Ron DeSantis seems unmoved by pushback from diversity advocates. Hoping for a response to Johnson’s letter, a DeSantis spokesperson directed media back to the governor’s initial celebration tweet, where he called DEI “toxic.” 

Boycotting state athletic programs could negatively affect Florida’s economic stance. According to the Department of Education, the University of Florida, Florida State University, and the University of South Florida generated more than $177 million in revenue between July 2021 and June 30, 2022. 

As home to some of the most prominent football and basketball programs in the country, Johnson recognizes that some Black student-athletes don’t have the luxury to decide to boycott. “While it is our duty to spread awareness and encourage action around these egregious assaults, we also recognize that protest can come at a price,” Johnson said. 

“The sad reality is, for many Black student-athletes, collegiate sports may be their sole opportunity at achieving the upward mobility necessary to propel them into their rightful places in society.”

Some leaders in other cities, like the mayor of Birmingham, Randall Woodfin, are encouraging Black student-athletes to find programs in other states that accept DEI programming, as more than 30 states have introduced or passed over 100 bills either restricting or regulating DEI efforts.