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Unsportsmanlike conduct: The exploitation of Black athletes

EVERETT L. GLENN | 12/16/2013, 8:24 a.m. | Updated on 12/16/2013, 11:33 a.m.
The author with former client Willie Gault, who played 11 years with the Chicago Bears and the Oakland Raiders. NNPA

Travel east to Ohio State – or anywhere else – and the pattern is the same.

Black athletes represent 52.9 percent of OSU’s basketball and football rosters and dominate among its star players, fueling a nearly $130 million athletic department budget on a campus where Black males represent only 2.7 percent of the student body.

And like UCLA and USC, the OSU Black athletes trail their White teammates in graduation success. Ohio State football tied for fifth in the Big Ten, according to the most recent graduation data. The men’s basketball team, with a graduation rate of 46 percent, ranked last in the Big Ten.

The disparity between the graduation rate for OSU’s Black football players, at 38 percent, and all student-athletes, at 71 percent, representing the highest disparity in the Big Ten. The disparity between the graduation rate of Black athletes and the rest of the OSU student body is the second-worst in the Big Ten, a 36 percent difference. The 13-point disparity in graduation rates between Ohio State’s Black basketball and football players and all Black students is also the largest among Big Ten schools.

With the exception of Moody Nolan, a Columbus-based architectural firm, no Black contractors have participated in any significant way on any of the sports-related construction at Ohio State. And the reported $500,000 gift made by former All-American Michael Redd to sponsor the lobby of the new $19 million training facility, the largest gift ever by a former OSU player, did not alter the picture.

If any former star Black athletes blossom into successful business owners, they get shut out again because of the lack of participation of Black businesses and professionals.

Blacks were not included in USC’s $140 million Galen Center, a 255,000 square-foot basketball arena with 10,258 seats. A 45,000 square-foot attachment contains additional practice room with three sections with enough space for four full basketball courts or nine volleyball courts as well as space for coaches and administrative offices.

Nor were they included in the $70 million John McKay Center, a 110,000-square-foot athletic and academic facility that houses meeting rooms, coaches’ offices and a locker room for the football program, as well as the Stevens Academic Center (including space for tutoring, counseling, study and computer rooms for student-athletes), a weight room, an athletic training room and a state-of-the-art digital media production facility for all of USC’s 21 sports.

Another $177 million was spent on renovation to the Rose Bowl and $185 million in renovation to Pauley Pavilion at UCLA. Not a single Black contractor participated on any of the projects. Two Hispanic firms received contracts worth approximately 6 percent of the Pauley Pavilion project, according to UCLA officials. USC officials refused to respond to inquiries about participation by Black contractors and professionals on the Galen and John McKay Centers.

While White colleges and industry stakeholders (networks, sponsors, apparel companies, etc) are reaping huge financial rewards off Black athletic talent, the people who make it all possible are not sharing in the benefits. Blacks are undoubtedly the stars on the football field and basketball courts. But economically, African Americans remain confined to the sideline.