College sports is a multibillion-dollar industry built on Black student-athletes.

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College sports is a multibillion-dollar industry built largely on the backs of Black student-athletes who can't profit off their name, image and likeness (NIL) and graduate at far lower rates than their white teammates.

The state of play: Football and men's basketball — both played by predominantly Black athletes — generate the vast majority of the revenue that underwrites college athletic departments and pays coaches' massive salaries.

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  • In 40 states, a head college football or basketball coach was the highest-paid public employee as of January 2020, per ESPN.

  • And yet, athletes have no collective bargaining rights, long-term medical care or even guaranteed scholarships.

By the numbers: On most Division I campuses, Black students are disproportionately athletes. Take Louisiana State University, where 1 out of every 11 Black males is a scholarship athlete — compared to 1 out of every 125 white males.

  • The average Graduation Success Rate (GSR) for Black football players on bowl-bound teams in 2020 was 73.4%, 16.3% lower than white players (89.7%), per The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.

  • 39.3% of bowl-bound schools had GSRs for Black football student-athletes that were at least 20 percentage points lower than the rates for white players.

What they're saying: When such a large percentage of a school's Black population plays sports — and exists in a world where athletics often supersedes academics — it perpetuates racial stereotypes, writes The Undefeated's Derrick Z. Jackson.

"The tragic stereotype that the only thing a Black man can be is an athlete — and a dumb one at that — tortures the nation's psyche."

"If universities can be so effective at finding Black men to play ball and make millions of dollars for their coffers ... why can they not find Black men who do not play sports and provide the support necessary to matriculate?"

The big picture: The popularity of football and basketball disguises the fact that the rest of college sports is made up of predominantly white, middle-class athletes.

  • And since those sports don't make money, the revenue generated by football and basketball subsidizes their very existence, as well as some academic endeavors.

  • The Nation's Dave Zirin went so far as to call the NCAA "a machine to facilitate the organized theft of Black wealth."

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