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NAACP Boycott Should Be Modified to Target UF and FSU Football

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — reflecting on the lessons he learned from the movement in Albany, Georgia, in the early 1960s — said that one mistake they made was trying to desegregate the entire town (schools, parks, restaurants, stores, theaters, hotels, pools, etc.) at once instead of targeting one sector where they had particularly strong leverage.

Dr. Marcus BrightDr. Marcus BrightHe and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) colleagues applied the lessons that they learned in Albany during the 1963 campaign in Birmingham by targeting the downtown department stores for desegregation and calling for a boycott during the time that preceded the Easter holiday, when Blacks would typically be spending a significant amount of money on new clothes. This proved to be much more effective and increased the pressure for broader change.

This lesson is applicable to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) call for Black student-athletes to rethink attending public colleges and universities in Florida to continue their careers in response to the decision of the Florida State Legislature and governor to prohibit expenditures on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs.

I applaud the NAACP for the sentiment behind taking an aggressive stance against the dismantling of DEI programs. I believe that the call to boycott athletics programs at Florida public colleges and universities should be modified to specifically target the football teams at the University of Florida (UF) and Florida State University (FSU). One reason for this is that these specific programs generate the most revenue and their respective head coaches, Billy Napier and Mike Norvell, are the highest paid public employees in the state.

Also, these two football programs have enormous fan bases and hold a very special place in the hearts and minds of many Floridians. For example, the plight of the FSU football team was taken so seriously that the upper echelon of the Florida’s political leadership at the state and federal level expressed outrage and took official action in response to their exclusion from the College Football Playoff. The Seminoles were not chosen to participate in the four-team playoff despite being an undefeated Power 5 conference team. Two one loss teams, Texas and Alabama, were chosen instead.

This exclusion prompted outrage from many across the state including prominent government officials. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody launched an antitrust investigation into the College Football Playoff. U.S. Sen. Rick Scott sent a letter to the College Football Playoff committee that stated, “while I doubt the committee’s decision will be reversed to rightly reward FSU for its hard-fought, undefeated season as the committee has done for other undefeated Power Five conference champions in recent years, I do believe that total transparency regarding how this decision was reached would do tremendous good for the Committee, the CFP as a whole, and the college football community.”

Both football programs have been fueled primarily by the talent of Black student-athletes. They hold an incredible amount of leverage as it pertains to the success of the programs and the millions of dollars that they produce annually. I contend that this is the time for this leverage to be used for the broader benefit of the community at-large.

The decision of Black student-athletes to not attend these two institutions to play football is not one to be taken lightly. With the advent of name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals, a student-athlete could potentially miss out on millions of dollars during their collegiate playing career and even more if they leverage the platform and prowess of the programs to catapult themselves into the National Football League (NFL). However, NIL. is available at any comparable program and thus student-athletes can opt to go elsewhere and still receive similar benefits if not more.

With that being said, viable alternatives with equivalent monetization opportunities should be secured for those Black student-athletes who turn down full scholarships and NIL. opportunities at UF and FSU. Convincing players and their parents to take the stance requires the clear articulation and highlighting of the ramifications of the dismantling of DEI initiatives and how it can impact the day-to-day lives of the student-athletes themselves and their communities like the potentially limited employment and business opportunities that could result if the anti-DEI push is extended further.

There is a long history of Blacks being excluded from even being considered for private and public sector contracts and job opportunities without there being intentional efforts in place to ensure targeted outreach and access. Moreover, companies focused on cultivating diversity and inclusivity in their workforce often heavily rely on colleges and universities for a diverse talent pool. When policies hinder DEI efforts on campuses, the stream of skilled graduates from different backgrounds becomes compromised.

To fully grasp the impact of such policies, it's crucial to recognize the deep-rooted historical context of discrimination against Black people and its extensive repercussions. Present-day racial wealth disparities are not merely a result of individual choices or chance events; they are shaped by a complex interplay of factors. Federal Housing Administration policies like redlining, historical injustices like slavery and Jim Crow laws, employment discrimination, lack of access to capital, and other systemic inequalities have all contributed to the persistent gaps we observe today.

Understanding history is essential because the advantages accumulated from generations of past discrimination continue to materialize as transfers of wealth across generations. These transfers fund education expenses, vehicle purchases, private school fees, credit card bills, medical costs, business ventures, homeownership, and other significant investments. The substantial differences in opportunities for wealth accumulation perpetuate economic inequality and constrain the upward mobility of marginalized communities.

I support the NAACP’s call to boycott and with this modified approach to target the UF and FSU football programs, its impact could be leveraged to the point where legislative action is taken. For the players, it would be a short-term sacrifice for a needed longer-term change that would alter the livelihood and trajectory of generations of families to come.

I believe that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was right when he said that “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Hopefully, blue-chip student-athletes will choose to not be led by fear but rather by a conviction to expand access and opportunity for those who have been historically locked out and excluded from opportunities to accelerate their socioeconomic mobility.

Dr. Marcus Bright is an author and social impact professional.

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