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NAACP urges Black student-athletes to consider alternatives to Florida public schools

Reasla Teague

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The NAACP is urging Black student-athletes to think twice about attending public colleges and universities in Florida in response to the state’s crackdown on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs.

In a letter to current and prospective NCAA athletes, NAACP President Derrick Johnson challenged them to “choose wisely” given Florida’s new restrictions blocking public funds from supporting DEI initiatives on campuses.

“If these institutions are unable to completely invest in those athletes, it’s time they take their talents elsewhere,” Johnson said in statement, arguing DEI efforts ensure “equitable and effective educational outcomes.”

The letter follows the University of Florida eliminating all DEI staff positions after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation largely prohibiting state colleges from funding such programs he deems “woke.”

Florida Governor Ron Desantis PHOTO: Wikipedia

Pro Bowl running back Emmitt Smith, who is an alumnius of University of Florida, spoke out on Twitter against the elimination of DEI programs at his school.

Johnson’s message highlights concerns that Florida’s DEI ban could undermine proper investment and create insufficient support systems for Black athletes at public universities.

His call for Black athletes to explore other options adds prominence to criticism over Florida’s stance. DeSantis and other Republican leaders have increasingly moved to restrict DEI initiatives they view as ideologically objectionable.

“DEI is toxic and has no place in our public universities,” DeSantis said on Twitter. “I’m glad that Florida was the first state to eliminate DEI and I hope more states follow suit.”

Beyond Florida, Texas last year banned DEI offices altogether at public colleges, part of a broader conservative legislative push in over 30 states to rein in DEI practices.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, signed a law last year ordering DEI offices at all state-funded colleges and universities to shut down. In the current legislative session, GOP lawmakers in more than 30 states have introduced or passed more than 100 bills to either restrict or regulate DEI efforts writ large, according to an NBC News analysis.

Proponents insist such programs foster racial and social inclusivity essential to campuses. But the NAACP now warns top Black athletes could avoid Florida public schools unable to fully prioritize their interests without DEI resources.

This story was originally published on the Houston Defender Network.

DEI, Florida public colleges, Gov. Ron DeSantis, NAACP, University of Florida