As the excitement of the classic championship game Monday between Clemson and Alabama subsides, I’m left with a vexing question: How do we escalate the desegregation of the college sports industry?
I’ve gone in and out of press boxes for more than 35 years, and the lopsided distribution of labor is never more clearly laid out than it is during the playing of the national anthem. This is the moment when the stadium is frozen. I look at the players standing at attention, so many of them African-Americans. Then I look at a packed press box, as I did on Monday, and see four, perhaps five black faces in a space that holds up to 200. This is after walking through the stadium and watching bustling stadium operations crews, event management staffs, often seeing no black faces in leadership positions.
On the field, the college sports industry has figured out how to recruit black athletes in significant numbers to fill out rosters, especially in the revenue-generating sports of football and basketball. There were points during Monday’s championship game between Alabama and Clemson when 16 to 18 of the 22 players on the field were African-Americans — or players of color. Off the field, in virtually every other sector of the industry, the black presence is minuscule.