Skip to content

NAACP urges student-athletes to bypass Florida colleges


Following controversy over DEI 

By Stacy M. Brown | NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson has called on Black student-athletes to reconsider their decisions to attend public colleges and universities in Florida. The call comes in response to a new state policy preventing institutions from utilizing government funds for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs.

In a letter sent to current and prospective student-athletes of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) earlier this month, NBC News reported that Johnson urged them to “choose wisely” amidst the ongoing debate surrounding DEI funding in Florida. He emphasized the crucial role of diversity, equity, and inclusion in ensuring equitable and effective educational outcomes, noting that Black athletes’ value to large universities is unmatched.

The controversy stems from a bill signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last year, restricting public colleges and universities from using state and federal funds for DEI programs. “If these institutions are unable to completely invest in those athletes, it’s time they take their talents elsewhere,” Johnson declared, according to NBC News.

The University of Florida’s recent decision to eliminate all DEI positions, complying with the state rule, drew condemnation from NFL Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith, an alum of the school. Smith emphasized the need for minority athletes to be aware and vocal about such decisions.

The trend against DEI programs has heightened, with Republican politicians in more than 30 states introducing bills to restrict or regulate such efforts. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, for instance, signed a law last year ordering the closure of DEI offices at state-funded colleges and universities.

The NAACP’s call comes on the heels of a similar message from Birmingham, Ala., Mayor Randall Woodfin, who asserted that if his state passed a bill blocking funding for DEI in public colleges, he would encourage student-athletes to explore programs in other states.

Florida’s significance in Division I athletics and its central role in college sports business are one issue the NAACP zeroed in on. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the University of Florida’s sports teams generated over $177 million in revenue from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022.

“If any institution is to reap the benefits of Black talent, it is only right that they completely invest in Black futures,” Johnson argued.