Historian: Let's call this system what it is ... 21st century Jim Crow

Historians in the News
tags: Jim Crow, college sports



Victoria L. Jackson is a sports historian at Arizona State University and former collegiate track star.

As an undergraduate student and track and field athlete at University of North Carolina, I was the prototypical athlete you learn about in NCAA messaging: Elite athletics enhanced my education as I earned my degree to "go pro" in something other than sports. (Although I did also go pro in my sport.)

This college sports system contributes to the undervaluing of black lives in American society and our institutions....

NCAA rules stipulate that they cannot not be paid, despite the massive amounts of money their athletic performances generate. Instead, some of those dollars subsidize idyllic student-athlete experiences like mine.

I embraced the weekly grind of the college athlete lifestyle, much like they did. I hit hard workouts, lifted weights and completed my prehab and rehab in the training room. But, unlike them, my sport responsibilities ended there. While they memorized playbooks, studied films and fulfilled media obligations, I escaped to the library in what became a love affair with history….

It may be difficult to view revenue-generating players as exploited. They are celebrated with grandiose pageants on ESPN and CBS. And we are all familiar with the stereotype of college football and basketball stars — entitled jocks who benefit from world-class athletic facilities, gourmet training tables, academic support centers, game rooms with all the bells and whistles, and travel on chartered airplanes.

But for those who don't go on to make millions as pros after graduation — and the vast majority of Division I football players don't — the NCAA narrative simply doesn't apply.

This divide correlates with race. Nonrevenue athletes are mostly white, while revenue-sport athletes are disproportionately black. This is especially true at the most elite sports schools, the Power Five conferences.

According to a study by Dr. Shaun R. Harper, black men represent 2.8% of undergraduate students at UNC, but 62% of the school's basketball and football players. These athletes graduate at a rate of 45%, compared with 72% for all athletes, 74% for black males, and 90% for all students....

Read entire article at The Los Angeles Times

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