Big-time college sports are the “21st century Jim Crow”

The Chronicle reports on the recent LA Times Op-Ed:

College athletics, wrote Victoria Jackson in an explosive op-ed for the Los Angeles Times  on Thursday, are the “21st century Jim Crow.”

Ms. Jackson, a sports historian at Arizona State University, drew from her scholarly research and from her own experience as a Division I track-and field-athlete at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She describes a stark divide between two classes of athletes — those who have academic lives outside their sports, and those who must dedicate their time to entirely to athletics, robbed of the opportunity to learn alongside other students. “This divide,” she wrote, “correlates with race.”

“Nonrevenue athletes are mostly white, while revenue-sport athletes are disproportionately black,” Ms. Jackson wrote. “This college sports system contributes to the undervaluing of black lives in American society and our institutions. The predominantly white privilege of playing college sports while earning a quality degree comes at the expense of — is literally paid for by — the educationally unequal experiences of mostly black football and basketball players.” …

Read it all.

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5 Responses to Big-time college sports are the “21st century Jim Crow”

  1. Conservative Duck says:

    What you do with your time in college is your personal responsibility and no one else’s. Choose wisely.
    This op-ed is laughable and has no foundation in reality. How many of these athletes never would have had any chance at college based on academics alone?

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  2. Amy Adams says:

    Conservative Duck, which were the funny parts of the op-ed?

    Which parts have no foundation in reality? I read it twice, didn’t find anything laughable, and found it entirely plausible, even reality-based.

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  3. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    The author gives the impression in her piece that non-revenue athletes devote 20 hrs/week, while the revenue athletes devote much, much more. But the PAC-12 report she links to actually seems to say it’s 34 vs 42 hrs. Not nothing, but smaller than the disparity in time that many non-athlete students put in, smaller than the disparity between many working and non-working students.

    I have a number of athletes in a course I teach. They tend to do pretty well, better than average, I would guess. (I haven’t really kept track with precision.) I’ve had (white) football players who have done pretty well, whatever the amount of time they need to put in. I’ve helped some black athletes get through some stuff for which they were pretty shakily prepared coming in, with pretty decent outcome. I’ve never heard any of the athletes complain about being victims. In fact, I think their attitude helps them do better than might be predicted. (I imagine the special tutoring may help too, though tutoring is available to all who want to take advantage of it, athlete or not.)

    Probably the football and basketball players are under pressure to put in somewhat more time and energy. Is that fair? Well, they are the ones with the best prospects to make a lot of money, however small those odds are. And, they certainly get the lion’s share of the glory. With due respect to the golf and tennis and even track athletes. Is that compensation for what they put in? Well, I am not going to judge that for them.

    Is this 21st century Jim Crow? I have been around long enough to remember real Jim Crow, toward the end of it. It was not pretty, and occasionally, even toward the end, it could be deadly.
    No, being a UO football player is not Jim Crow. It is such an inapt comparison as to be risible (if “laughable” is not quite the best word). I am not a big fan of the big-time college athletics business, nor of the football and basketball culture. But Jim Crow it is not.

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    • Heraclitus says:

      You say, “I’ve had (white) football players who have done pretty well, whatever the amount of time they need to put in. I’ve helped some black athletes get through some stuff for which they were pretty shakily prepared coming in…” While I take your point that “real” Jim Crow was something else, you seem to be eliding a pretty big point with the above statement. You’re essentially supporting the author’s point that the “divide… correlates with race.” I appreciate the fact that you put in time to help all your students, but shifting the problem to how the athletes are “prepared” doesn’t make it go away.

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      • honest Uncle Bernie says:

        I’m glad that we agree that big-time college sports for black athletes does not equate to Jim Crow. Am I “eliding the problem”? I feel more like I am trying to solve problems, to the limited extent that I can. And believe me, it is not just black students, black athletes who are ill-prepared. (Why the quotes around prepared, I wonder?) There are plenty of students of other colors, including a boatload of white students, who aren’t well-prepared, who are culturally or educationally somewhat deprived. (OK, preparation is just part of the problem, and partly a euphemism, the problem can and does include bad preparation, but it can also include lack of willingness to work, lack of knowing how to work effectively, just being not terribly smart, other things. Note again, this applies to students of all colors, including whites.)

        I could tell myself that the students are victims, of whatever, including Jim Crow; I could tell them to be resentful, that they are oppressed, to give up without trying. Or I can try to help them starting from wherever they are at, to do better than they thought they could do. And you know what? Those who put in the effort more often than not do pretty decently, maybe not always great, but better than they thought. The athletes seem to do better than others, perhaps because they have discipline, willingness to work, and drive that others often lack.

        Are there problems of disparate preparation, or achievement gaps, or divergent cultural capital, or any of a number of terms?
        Sure. I wish I knew how to solve those. If someone figures out how to make the achievement gaps go away, let us all know. They seem pretty intractable, given decades of experience. Patent the cure, bottle it, and sell it all over the country, there will be a vast market.

        It seems to me that most of us are dealt quite a mixed hand, including quite a few of those who seem to be privileged. I would tell most people to try not to let that hold them back.

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