Frederick Douglass, the greatest orator in American history, remains a rightful standard for how eloquent black folk are. In his most quoted public oration, Douglass noted that "power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will."
According to Rush Limbaugh, "an institution that enables thousands of young African Americans to become millionaires is under assault from a bunch of white liberals." They have captured the spirit of Douglass' words and challenged the most powerful man in America's most powerful sport.
In response to the Ray Rice case, NOW has demanded that Goodell resign. The Rice, Greg Hardy and Jonathan Dwyer cases brought the total number of arrests and charges of domestic violence against NFL players over the past 6 year to a whopping 56 cases.
According to NOW's President Terry O'Neil, the NFL "doesn't have a Ray Rice problem; it has a violence against women problem," and that "the NFL sets the example for college, high school, middle school and even elementary school football programs. And the example it is setting right now is simply unacceptable."
With a chapter in each of the 50 U.S. states and 500,000 members, Terry O'Neill was able to leverage the attention the Rice case brought to the issue of domestic violence and get the NFL to make a multi-million dollar commitment to support the efforts of NOW and the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Interestingly, the demand that Goodell resign remains on the NOW website weeks "after" the NFL committed to help the organizations
Not a single black professional among the four women named to a blue-ribbon panel to develop the NFL's response to domestic violence. Never mind that blacks make up nearly 70 percent of NFL players, or research that suggests that that the "one-size-fits-all" approach to domestic violence services being provided in mainstream communities does "not suffice for blacks, who disproportionately experience stressors that can create conditions that lead to violence in the home."
If NOW can make the NFL move, then black folk need a response from Mark Emmert. After all, black males represent less than 4 percentof the undergraduate student body at FBS schools and, on average, about 60 percent of their basketball and football team rosters. While some are bright and talented, most are under-read, underexposed, undereducated, and frequently misinformed, from some of America's most impoverished neighborhoods where they have had to strive for success against all odds.
When compared to all undergraduates, the disparity in graduation rates for black athletes and the entire student body is as high as 50 percent. When compared to all other athletes, the disparity is as high as 38 percent at the top FBS schools.
While our boys are failing, NCAA member institutions are enjoying the fruits of record-breaking, multi-billion dollar TV rights deals that generate enough revenue to cover the entire athletic department budget of the 75 colleges that make up the six highest-resource conferences in college sports (ACC, Big East, Big-12, Big-10, Pac-12 and SEC). In a speech he gave at a meeting of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce I attended a year or so ago, NCAA President Emmert stated that "basketball and football revenue funds $2 billion in scholarships annually, or more than any single organization besides the federal government." When asked by parents and supporters of college's non-revenue generating sports how they might help those sports, Emmert responded "buy tickets to the football game."
According to Sonny Vaccaro who signed the pioneering shoe contract with Michael Jordan and built sponsorship empires successively at Nike, Adidas, and Reebok, "90 percent of the NCAA revenue is produced by 1 percent of the athletes. "Go to the skill positions. Ninety percent African Americans." A few schools actually make enough money through basketball and football to contribute millions to academic programs and initiatives.
The NCAA is under attack on all fronts, and the new College Football Playoff system is the latest example of profits trumping the best interest of student-athletes. The playoffs are sponsored by Dr Pepper, which paid an estimated $35 million for the sponsorship rights through 2020. ESPN reportedly paid $7.3 billion overall for the 12-year TV rights.
More money, but no more help for our boys.
I often wonder what black people do not understand about Douglass' famous statement. We love to quote it, but when it comes to putting it into practice we fall far short of the spirit of Douglass' words.
The media and the general public spoke against the NFL on domestic violence, but have voiced little indignation about the NCAA or a system that even a federal court has characterized as a commercial enterprise built on the labor of unpaid student-athletes.
Why not demand that Emmert resign unless the NCAA addresses these historical wrongs? Why not respond to systemic failure in the same way NOW responded to cases of domestic violence involving NFL players? A program for black athletes similar to the programs that have helped non-athlete black students not only catch their competition, but in many cases pass them by makes sense.
Isn't abuse -- no matter the form -- still abuse?
How ironic is it that many of the country's 105 HBCUs are struggling financially less than a century after the mass exodus of the talent that now fuels the multi-billion dollar college sports industry? Once money reared its ugly head at the Intersection of Race, Sports & Money, Alabama State/A&M became Alabama; FAMU became Florida and Florida State; Grambling and Southern became LSU; Alcorn and Jackson State became Ole Miss and Mississippi State; and Tennessee State became UT.
The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle.
What are black people waiting on? #Resign Emmert.