Jemele Hill, former ESPN personality and current writer for The Atlantic, wrote that elite black athletes should stop attending predominantly white colleges, and should instead use their talent and fame to lift up historically black colleges and universities.
Hill points out the disparity in prominence and resources in college athletics between the best programs, which are all from predominantly white schools, and the HBCUs that bring in only a fraction of the revenue of the top programs.
She established her point by using the story of Kayvon Thibodeaux, the top high school football player in the class of 2018. Thibodeaux visited Florida A&M, an HBCU, before ultimately deciding to attend the University of Oregon.
“Nobody wants to eat McDonald’s when you can get filet mignon,” Thibodeaux told Hill about his decision.
Black athletes need to understand that the money will go wherever they do, Hill argues, and so they should use that influence to elevate HBCUs and the black communities they are often located within.
“Bringing elite athletic talent back to black colleges would have potent downstream effects,” Hill wrote. “It would boost HBCU revenues and endowments; stimulate the economy of the black communities in which many of these schools are embedded; amplify the power of black coaches, who are often excluded from prominent positions at predominantly white institutions; and bring the benefits of black labor back to black people.”
Elite high school athletes typically choose the same group of elite, and predominantly white, schools because they want to go somewhere with the best facilities, the most opportunity for exposure, and with the greatest chance of advancing to the professional level in their sport.
Hill argues that the system needs to be disrupted, and that predominantly white institutions don’t deserve to continue benefitting from lucrative athletics programs that are disproportionately black when compared with the student populations.
“If promising black student athletes chose to attend HBCUs in greater numbers, they would, at a minimum, bring some welcome attention and money to beleaguered black colleges, which invested in black people when there was no athletic profit to reap,” Hill wrote. “More revolutionarily, perhaps they could disrupt the reign of an ‘amateur’ sports system that uses the labor of black folks to make white folks rich.”