Athletes Feel Obligated to Pursue Social Justice


Nearly all college athletes, coaches and other athletics staff members believe racism is a “concerning issue” in the United States, and a majority of athletes recognize their role in speaking out and organizing for social justice, according to a survey report recently released by RISE, a national organization that educates members of the sports community on racial issues and encourages activism in athletics.

Ninety-one percent of the athletes and 95 percent of athletics department staff members surveyed recognized racism as a prevailing issue in the U.S., according to the report, which summarized responses from 6,270 athletes and 1,256 coaches and staff members at 55 colleges during the 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years.

Three-fourths of the staff members and 65 percent of athletes said that racism is an issue on their individual campus, the report said. Athletes of color viewed racism as a more serious issue than their white peers, and athletes’ level of concern for racism was higher among students who are sophomores, juniors and seniors compared to first-year students, the report said.

A majority of athletes and their coaches and athletics department officials also said that athletes have some role in the movement against racial injustice, whether it is spreading awareness, speaking out about social justice issues or learning more about race, diversity and inclusion, the report said. Eighty-four percent of athletes said they are “willing to speak up and be more active” about social justice issues, and 67 percent of coaches said athletes have an obligation to bring awareness to such issues, the report said.

Eighty-five percent of coaches and staff members said they wanted to learn more about these topics, which showed “eagerness for more education and means to empower athletes,” a RISE press release said. The data are reflective of the protests, lobbying of policy makers and other forms of activism in which athletes and athletic departments have participated in response to the police killings of George Floyd and other Black people this year, Andrew Mac Intosh, RISE vice president of curriculum, said in the release.

“What these numbers make abundantly clear is that college athletes, regardless of race, feel racism is still a challenge in our society — something that has been demonstrated in their willingness to take action over the past few months,” Mac Intosh said.

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