NAACP Tells Student-Athletes to Avoid Florida’s Colleges After State Bans DEI Programs

Jacob Burg
By Jacob Burg
March 12, 2024Sports News
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has asked black student-athletes to "reconsider" attending public Florida colleges and universities, after the state cut funding for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs.

Black student-athletes are being encouraged to avoid Florida’s public colleges and universities, says a letter sent by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) President Charlie Baker on March 11.

The recommendation came after the University of Florida (UF) announced on March 1 that it would remove all of its diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs, fire the staff, halt “DEI-focused contracts with outside vendors,” and reallocate the $5 million in its DEI fund.

“To all current and prospective college student-athletes—the NAACP urges you to reconsider any potential decision to attend and compete at a predominantly white institution in the state of Florida,” said the letter signed by NAACP National Board of Directors Chairman Leon W. Russell and NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson.

“This is not about politics. 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 removed DEI from UF and its other state public colleges and universities after the state Board of Education adopted a new rule on Jan. 17 to ban the use of state or federal funds for programs that “categorize individuals based on race or sex for the purpose of differential or preferential treatment,” including DEI.

The rule change comes after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed SB 266 in May 2023, which prohibited the use of state funds for DEI programs in Florida’s state college system.

“In Florida, we will build off of our higher education reforms by aligning core curriculum to the values of liberty and the Western tradition, eliminating politicized bureaucracies like DEI, increasing the amount of research dollars for programs that will feed key industries with talented Florida students, and empowering presidents and boards of trustees to recruit and hire new faculty, including by dedicating record resources for faculty salaries,” Mr. DeSantis said in a news release prior to signing the legislation.

The NAACP targeted Mr. DeSantis and his administration’s policies in its March 11 letter, saying the governor has “waged war on Black America” by eliminating DEI from state colleges.

“While the University of Florida may be the first, they will not be the last,” the letter said.

“Florida is home to some of the nation’s largest public universities, many of whom rely on Black talent recruited to their athletics programs,” the NAACP added in its press statement announcing the letter.

Florida’s Response

Following the NAACP’s announcement, Mr. DeSantis’s office responded to the letter in a statement to The Epoch Times.

“This is yet another Florida-aimed political stunt from the NAACP with no basis. Florida’s education system is ranked number one in the nation on many metrics,” including number one in the U.S. for Higher Education, seven years in a row, “and this world-class education is open to any American, regardless of race.”

The statement continued, calling the NAACP’s recommendation its “latest political stunt.”

“What Florida refuses to do, however—and what prompted this latest political stunt—is have Florida taxpayers pay for political indoctrination or state-sanctioned discrimination as part of our higher education system; that’s why we’ve eliminated DEI,” the governor’s office said.

The State University System of Florida (SUSF) also responded to the NAACP in a statement to The Epoch Times.

“The NAACP has again targeted Florida with another political attack. The NAACP mischaracterizes Florida statutes and ignores that the DEI prohibited expenditures statute does not apply to student-led organizations nor student speech.”

SUSF says the state’s school system is “among the most diverse in the nation.”

“Florida has achieved this diversity without affirmative action or quotas. While the national average of public undergraduate students who identify as black or Hispanic is 29 percent, here in Florida, that number is 13 points higher at 42 percent,” SUSF said.

The organization said the state’s education success is achieved “when the focus is on students and a quality education rather than indoctrination.”

“We are proud of our Florida institutions and the work they do on behalf of our more than 430,000 students. Florida’s legislature and [Mr.] DeSantis continue to invest in resources that allow us to remain committed to academic excellence and freedom,” said SUSF Chancellor Ray Rodrigues in a statement.

The Epoch Times reached out to the NAACP but did not receive a response prior to publication.

NAACP’s Florida ‘Travel Advisory’

This is not the first time the organization has protested the state of Florida, Mr. DeSantis, and his administration’s policies.

In May 2023, the NAACP issued a “travel advisory” warning travelers to avoid visiting Florida after Mr. DeSantis signed legislation that the organization found discriminatory.

“Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals. Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color,” said the NAACP advisory.

The bills deemed discriminatory by the NAACP include the “Combatting Violence, Disorder, and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act,” the “Stop Wrongs against Our Kids and Employees Act” (“Stop WOKE Act”), and the “Constitutional Carry Act” gun bill.

“Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, the state of Florida has become hostile to Black Americans and in direct conflict with the democratic ideals that our union was founded upon,” Mr. Johnson said regarding the advisory.

Mr. DeSantis said the NAACP’s claims that Florida is “unsafe” are a “total farce” when he announced his presidential campaign run on X, formerly Twitter.

“If you look at cities like Baltimore and Chicago, you got kids more likely to get shot than to receive a first-class education,” he said.

“Yet I don’t see the NAACP batting an eye about all the outrage and the carnage that’s happening in those areas.”

Like the NAACP’s protest of Florida’s college DEI policy, Mr. DeSantis called the May 2023 travel advisory a “political stunt,” adding that “Black students in Florida perform much higher than black students in most other states.”

“We ranked number three in fourth-grade reading and number two in fourth-grade math amongst our black student population,” the governor said.

For the NAACP and Mr. Johnson, DEI is “paramount [to] ensuring equitable and effective educational outcomes.”

“The value Black and other college athletes bring to large universities is unmatched. If these institutions are unable to completely invest in those athletes, it’s time they take their talents elsewhere,” Mr. Johnson said in a statement on March 11.

From The Epoch Times

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