The Legislative Black Caucus of South Carolina is not calling for a worldwide class revolution, or even organizing a demonstration of thousands to demand bread. These lawmakers are, however, hitting white elites where it hurts by urging black football recruits to reconsider attending the University of South Carolina (USC). The caucus is responding to the university’s board of trustees, which is likely to lose its lone black member.
State Rep. David Weeks, the chairman of the caucus, told the AP, “We are asking young athletes to be aware … there are folks in this state who say it’s fine to play ball but not to be on the governing board.”
Big-time college football is big business in America, especially in the South with the Southeastern Conference (of which USC is a member) bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars annually. As any good communist will tell you, big business equals labor exploitation. In big-time collegiate athletics this is particularly evident along racial lines. While athletic departments can make tens of millions of dollars from a successful football program, the vast majority of those athletes never make it to play pro ball. In fact, many black athletes do not even finish their playing careers with degrees. The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) most-recent statistics on graduation rates for blacks is significantly lower than for whites. At the highest level of college football, blacks have a 56 percent Graduation Success Rate, versus a 73 percent rate for white athletes. South Carolina’s numbers are not much better than the national average, with a 63 percent Graduation Success Rate for black football players.
Nearly half of all black college football players trade their athletic ability for an education that is never realized because their “employers” seem to value the revenue gained by a successful program over taking care of the labor. And while a few of the players might go on to be very successful professional players, the school is sending a message that leadership in the institution is not something that that can be attained by those who are exploited for their athletic ability.
The Legislative Black Caucus in South Carolina should be commended for its actions, but USC is clearly not the only offender. Unfortunately the allure of the success of a limited few professional football players is helping to keep some black youths from reaching for more, and institutions of higher learning are happily taking advantage for a profit. This is a far cry from Langston Hughes’s character Bert in The Ways of White Folks, whose collegiate life as a student-athlete helps give him the confidence and insight to stand up to racial injustices.
I, for one, am in favor of a workers movement of college football recruits who will demand more form their institutions, or who will look elsewhere to find schools that take care of their athletic laborers with the promise of successful futures in a whole range of careers.