OPINION: Florida State, NCAA Steal Education from Black Athletes

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A colleague of mine, Dr. Deborah Stroman, recently pointed me toward an episode of the ESPN Show, “Outside the Lines.”  In the show, it was determined that Florida State University was putting many of its football players in special education in order to keep them eligible to play without having to actually educate them.  In case you don’t know, special education is a place where our public schools have started putting thousands of black boys as an educational dumping ground.  Once they’ve been labelled in this way, many of them are not likely to learn how to read or write.   Additionally, Florida State University was accused of choosing majors for players, leading to half of all of the football players majoring in Social Sciences.  One player who asked for a more demanding major was eventually released from the team.

The NCAA tries to act like it had nothing to do with Florida State’s sham of an education.  They’re trying to act like this was an isolated incident and that Florida State is just a bad apple out of a very good bunch.  That’s BS.  The truth is that Florida State is only the latest university to be caught doing this.    Similar incidents have occurred at many other campuses across America, and most of them are not reported to the media.

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What worse about this travesty is that the individuals being affected are African American athletes.  Not only does the NCAA earn over a billion dollars per year taken directly from the black c0mmunity, they are responsible for destroying the futures of thousands of young black men every year.  The athletes are brought to campus, put into special dorms away from the other students, and forced to endure a practice schedule so rigorous that they don’t even have time to study.  This is not by accident, it’s all by design.  The coaches have no reason to care about educating the students because they are not rewarded for education.  They are only rewarded for winning.

John Calipari at Kentucky is a perfect example.  Calipari has been found cheating against the NCAA, and his graduation rates are so low, you would think his players can’t spell the word “loser.”  In spite of the fact that Calipari has let the NCAA know year after year that he cares almost nothing about educating anyone, they continue to reward him with long-term, multi-million dollar contracts.   All of this is at the expense of black families, who think that they are sending their children to college for an education (as their kids rake in millions that go to people who aren’t black – can you say “Jim Crow” anyone?).  This is not the fault of Calipari, who can’t be blamed for being the man that he is.  It is the fault of the universities and the NCAA, who continuously put out commercials claiming that they are all about education.

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The NCAA should have extra oversight.  They need outside entities who don’t care about winning to monitor each campus to make sure that the students at least have a chance to live a normal life.  The regulators should also be allowed to investigate to ensure that players are not being forced to practice more than they are supposed to (which happened earlier this year at The University of Michigan) and that they are given time to study.  Also, the athletes themselves should stand up and fight against this form of ridiculous oppression.  Former athletes, who’ve already been screwed by this system, should guide their efforts.  The Athlete Liberation and Academic Reform Movement (ALARM) is leading this charge, and that is why we are fighting.   Black men have to stand up and be counted in this corrupt system, or we will continue to lose our souls.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  For more information, please visit BoyceWatkins.com.

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