Today is a new day and we are more aware than we have previously been. College athletes are no exception. Many of these student-athletes have expressed racially insensitive events on their respective campuses. The question that I have always wondered is: why are our young Black athletes so willing to trade off their humanity for the bright lights and amenities?
We all know that HBCUs cannot compete with Power Five schools in terms of resources and money spent on athletics but is everything that shines really gold?
Many “Big-Time” Universities bring in Black players at very high levels to earn millions in football and basketball revenue but many of those schools’ demographics do not mirror what’s on the football field and basketball court. Recently, several schools have been called out by different, primarily Black school districts for not showing up to college fairs to recruit Black students for academics meanwhile pulling out all the stops to recruit Black student-athletes from the same school district.
Black men make up only 2.4 percent of the total undergraduate population at Power Five schools but make up 55 percent of football players and 56 percent of basketball players at those same schools. These Black student-athletes have made these Power 5 Institutions significantly richer while less than 55 percent of these young men leave these Power Five schools with a degree and only 2 percent make it to the professional ranks. So all of the shining lights and amenities were for what exactly?
With today’s climate, it seems that Black student-athletes are starting to realize the power they have. The SEC announced back in January that the conference earned $651 million in revenue for the 2018-19 school year and that each school would be distributed just over $44.6 million each. Most of this revenue is generated from men’s basketball and football off of the prized workforce of Black student-athletes. Meanwhile Black people are not stakeholders at these institutions that profit from our talent.
The SEC is known to have the most passionate fans in America but there’s an ugly side that we don’t like to discuss that’s seen on message boards from Tiger Droppings to Tide Fans and other fan sites. That ugly side is the blatant racism and bigotry that’s displayed when these fans think no one is watching. This often bleeds over to social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Once mostly publicly quiet, Black student-athletes are now speaking out. Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill received a backlash of vile tweets and messages towards him when he stated that he would not play for the Bulldogs unless the state flag was changed. Some of the same people who cheered Kylin Hill as he rushed for 1,350 yards and 10 touchdowns last season were now cursing his name because he doesn’t want any part of the Confederacy representing him.
Two Liberty University football players, Tayvion Land and Tre Clark, have announced that they would be leaving the school due to racial insensitivities shown within leadership at the school. This comes a few weeks after a former Liberty women’s Basketball player Asia Todd announced her transfer for the same reason. A fan expressed via Twitter that “all these athletes keeping up this crap is why I love horse racing, the horses can’t talk or tweet.”
The sad thing is, many fans feel just like this! They see sports as their escape from reality and the people on the field aren’t really people, they’re there to entertain. Once again is this the price that we are willing to pay for some shinny lights and some fresh gear? Is playing on ESPN weekly worth your humanity?
For some Black student-athletes, the answer is no. Earlier this month Norfolk State was able to sign a four star rated basketball recruit in Nate Tabor. Tabor had some big time offers from UConn, St. John’s, LSU and Auburn amongst others but decided to take his talents to Norfolk State. Trace Young, a former three-star recruit, decided to take his talents to Alabama State after spending a season at Wyoming.
Mikey Williams, considered the best basketball player in the class of 2023 by many, has shown a grasp of what many young student-athletes fail to understand. He averaged 30 points per game and dropped 77 points in a game during his freshman season, then made a series of bold statements about why he’s not only open to playing at an HBCU– he’s serious about potentially attending one.
“Why does it always have to be the big universities? What a lot of Top level athletes don’t understand is … If you’re a pro … then you’re a pro no matter what college you go to. Not enough people speak on things like this and I’ve been meaning to do so and put some word out but I figured this would be the perfect time … I am riding for my people!,” Williams wrote on Instagram. “I’m 10 toes behind the black community! Any way that I can help or make a change in the black community best believe I am going to do it.”
Yes. At only 15-years old Mikey Williams understands that his talent is the commodity, not the school. And with this talent he could completely change the landscape of college basketball by taking that talent to an HBCU.