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Harry Lyles Jr.ESPN Staff Writer
The National College Players Association (NCPA) has filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, asserting that more than 350 Division I colleges are violating Black students’ civil rights by imposing a collusive athlete compensation prohibition.
The organization says that because a high percentage of Black students are also college athletes at these colleges, the industry-wide compensation limit causes a disparate impact on Black college students.
The NCPA says its position is bolstered by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanagh’s opinion in the NCAA v. Alston lawsuit which stated in part, “… the NCAA and its member colleges are suppressing the pay of student athletes who collectively generate billions of dollars in revenues for colleges every year … But the student athletes who generate the revenues, many of whom are African American and from lower-income backgrounds, end up with little or nothing.”
“This multibillion college sports enterprise imposes discriminatory practices that disproportionately harms Black athletes, while predominantly White coaches and administrators make millions of dollars,” NCPA executive director Ramogi Huma said in a statement. “College athletes throughout predominantly White sports receive fair market compensation, but athletes in the only predominantly Black sports (FBS football and men’s and women’s basketball) do not. All college athletes should have the opportunity to receive fair market pay. This can happen without cutting any sports. Colleges would just have to spend a bit less on coaches’ salaries and luxury facilities.”
The statement included comments from several athletes, including Stanford wide receiver Elijah Higgins, who said: “… it’s important to first acknowledge the reality of the business that is college football. Then, recognize how the structure inhibits those (disproportionately Black) athletes from tapping into the money they generate with their skillsets, abilities, and hard work.”
Last month, the NCPA launched its #JforJustice advocacy in pursuit of fair compensation (including scholarships for Ivy League athletes), improved Title IX compliance transparency and enforcement, enforcement of health and safety standards, and preservation of all sports. The complaint filed Tuesday is a part of the campaign.
During a meeting earlier this month, NCPA athlete leaders and supportive experts encouraged the U.S. Department of Education to enforce civil rights laws to address NCAA colleges’ discriminatory treatment of Black and female college athletes.
“We need help from the U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to make progress. This is the 50th anniversary of Title IX but the sexual abuse and harassment of college athletes on campus is rampant, and there are still 100,000 fewer female college athletes than male college athletes. A lack of transparency makes it difficult to know which colleges are violating Title IX, college athletes don’t know their rights, and sexual predators and those who enable them too often victimize college athletes for years,” Kaira Brown, a women’s track athlete and leader of the Black college athlete organization at Vanderbilt said in a statement.
The NCPA took the first step in the #JforJustice campaign on Feb. 8 by filing unfair labor practice charges against the NCAA, the Pac-12, UCLA and USC to gain employee status and fair compensation for FBS football players and Division I men’s and women’s basketball players.