Imagining if top Black athletes shunned schools like Florida for fighting against DEI

OPINION: We’ve fought bled and died for the freedom of choice, which includes the ability to say “Take this scholarship and shove it.”

Florida DEI ban,
(Adobe Stock Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

MLK wasn’t the only person with a dream. At least he shouldn’t be the only one.

Black Thought has visions of “Nat Turner holding his master’s head — like Yorick and Horatio in Hamlet – smacking it like a tennis racket, underhanded.” Others among us invent less violent scenarios, maybe just building something to leave as a legacy for our offspring, maybe locking arms with our white cousins and singing Kumbaya.

Marcus Garvey fantasized about a back-to-Africa movement where we’d pack our shit and be out. Segregationists like George Wallace and Strom Thurmond didn’t actually want us ALL the way gone (too many missing service workers); they craved returning to their notion of good ol’ days when more Black folks were forced to “stay in their place.” 

Here’s one that a portion of Black granddaddies like to envision: 

Imagine if the top Black prep players in football and basketball — the money-making sports — decided to spurn PWIs and chose HBCUs instead. That version of good ol’ days would bring seismic change to the annual list of schools that produce NFL/NBA draft picks.

We can dismiss that dream because it ain’t happening. Nor should it. 

American institutions like PWIs were built on our backs, through blood, tears and uncompensated sweat. If desired, we deserve the opportunity to enjoy the fruit of that labor, to bask in the bountiful resources and exquisite facilities. It’s called freedom of choice and folks died for the right.

However, I do enjoy conjuring up the faces of, say, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey if Black athletes ever opt to rebuff scholarships from the Florida Gators and Alabama Crimson Tide. Those players might not choose FAMU or Alabama State as alternatives, but they’d tell the flagship universities to kick rocks.   

That’s a dream worth chasing.


The University of Florida recently fired every employee working on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), in compliance with state regulations. An anti-DEI bill is speeding through Alabama’s statehouse, where GOP lawmakers want to bar public schools from teaching “divisive concepts” like the alignment of slavery and racism within the nation’s founding principles.

Never mind that DEI isn’t only about race. Forget the fact that white women arguably are the prime beneficiaries. Discount the way it helps people who are LGBTQ or have disabilities. This isn’t our fight alone.

But it sure feels personal in Florida, Alabama and other states that have passed or proposed DEI bans. We can debate how much we’re truly wanted here or there, but those places are making it clear. I say let the feeling be mutual.

Let’s see how they’d like the figurative finger from our five- and four-star recruits. Dallas Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith and Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin are down with that, too.

“Although I’m the biggest Bama fan,” Woodfin posted, “I have no problem organizing Black parents and athletes to attend other institutions outside of the state where diversity and inclusion are prioritized.” (I’m giving passes to Alabama A&M and the state’s 13 other HBCUs that should be considered as options.)

Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher and former All-American at Florida, ripped his alma mater for gutting the DEI office. “I’m utterly disgusted by UF’s decision and the precedent that it sets,” he posted. “… To the MANY minority athletes at UF, please be aware and vocal about this decision by the University who is now closing the doors on other minorities without any oversight.”

Woodfin asked if “leadership, athletic directors and coaches” support the prohibition of DEI. I’m sure they’ll reply, “Hell no!” to keep the pipeline flowing. But athletes are their main concern, as opposed to other students (and faculty members) who benefit from anti-racist policies. 

We need to ensure that all Black bodies are welcome, not just those with exceptional size, speed and strength. “If supporting inclusion becomes illegal in this state,” Woodfin posted, “you might as well stand in front of the school door like Governor Wallace.”

At his inaugural address in 1963, Wallace called for “segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever,” and blocked a university entrance months later as Black students tried to enroll. DeSantis and his ilk consider it divisive to even mention such truths. He makes Dixiecrats proud with his reverse-racism rants, posting that “DEI is toxic and has no place in our public universities.”

But there’s a place for halfbacks and point guards. Got it.

Florida and them insist on saying the quiet part out loud, intent on crushing our hopes of being welcomed, included and accepted. They’ll extend open arms if we’re suiting up, but not so much if we’re just studying or teaching.

There’s no question how I’d feel, (or want my kid to feel) as a sought-after recruit: Y’all can take your scholarship offer and shove it. I hope it happens.

How’s that for a dream?

Deron Snyder, from Brooklyn, is an award-winning columnist who lives near D.C. and pledged Alpha at HU-You Know! He’s reaching high, lying low, moving on, pushing off, keeping up, and throwing down. Got it? Get more at

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