NAACP: Black Student-Athletes Should Reconsider Going to Public Colleges, Universities in Florida

The NAACP sent an open letter in response to the University of Florida eliminating its diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) department and criticized the state's anti-DEI law, which was enacted last year.
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Published on March 14, 2024
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  • The University of Florida (UF) closed its diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) office earlier this month to comply with a 2023 bill signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
  • The NAACP said it's important for individuals and the community to hold institutions like UF accountable for the removal of DEI initiatives.
  • The NAACP's concerns have been echoed by some prominent pundits and athletes, including Slate's Joel Anderson and former NFL great Emmitt Smith.

The NAACP is urging Black athletes to stay away from public predominantly white colleges and universities in Florida after changes resulting from the state's anti-diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) law.

NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson and Chairman Leon W. Russell sent an open letter to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and to all Black current and prospective student-athletes urging them to reconsider attending any predominantly white institution (PWI) in Florida.

"This is not about politics," the letter reads. "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."

"Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has made no effort to conceal his administration's devaluation of Black America. From racist voting policies, to unraveling reproductive freedoms and attempting to rewrite Black history, DeSantis has waged war on Black America."

The letter comes less than two weeks after the University of Florida (UF) closed its Office of the Chief Diversity Officer, eliminated DEI positions and administrative appointments, and halted DEI-focused contracts with vendors.

The university took these actions to comply with the anti-DEI bill DeSantis signed into law last year. It bans public colleges and universities from promoting or supporting DEI programs and offering general education courses on concepts like systemic racism or privilege.

The NAACP said while its job is to spread awareness and encourage action, it realizes the upward mobility costs a protest can have on Black student-athletes in collegiate sports.

The letter says UF and other public institutions have the opportunity to create a wholly supportive educational environment. Until then, individuals and the community must hold these institutions accountable.

Concern Grows Over Florida Anti-DEI Law

The NAACP's concerns over the ongoing fallout from Florida's anti-DEI movement have been echoed by some prominent pundits and athletes.

Joel Anderson, Slate staff writer and "Slow Burn" podcaster, has said that Black athletes should avoid Florida PWIs.

Anderson said on the "Dan Le Batard Show" that it's impossible to ask Black athletes to boycott all schools where states are pushing anti-DEI bills. However, the University of Florida can be made an example and could deal with the repercussions for a long time.

"They could easily become the kind of school where people say, 'Hey man, are you sure you want to send your son there? Do you think they'll be comfortable, they'll be taken care of, that people will welcome them with open arms when their playing days are over?'" Anderson said on the show.

According to the NAACP's letter, the NFL, former student-athletes, current NFL players, and NFL teams have emphasized the importance of earning a degree, but UF and other PWIs are creating spaces that complicate degree attainment for the NFL's most valuable talent pool.

NFL Hall of Famer and UF alum Emmitt Smith released a letter that denounced his alma mater's recent firing of all its DEI employees.

"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."

If any institution is to reap the benefits of Black talent, the NAACP said in its letter, it is only right that they completely invest in Black futures.

"Remember, your talents and courage on the field should be mirrored by the commitments made to you off the field," the NAACP letter concludes. "Choose wisely, for the future belongs to those willing to demand — and receive — the respect and opportunities they rightfully deserve."