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Why African-Americans are swindled into playing sports instead of pursuing academics

By Paige Johnson and Tianne Johnson

Pushing African-American men to broaden their vision beyond going professional in sports remains a challenge today. Now more than ever, urging black men to take up sports as a career is becoming detrimental to our community.

The NFL is 70% African-American meaning it relies on the participation of black men, thus requiring their devotion to a career in the sports industry. In order to play in the NFL, one must possess a highschool diploma meaning college is not a requirement. According to Christopher Bogan from The New York Times, only 33% of African-American men playing in the NFL have degrees. This is disturbing because this means that we are lacking in careers that require a higher education. With statistics showing that black men are not enrolling in undergraduate schools compared to black women, the sports industry continues to act as a barrier to shifting this disparity.

Yahoo News writer T.M. Board states, “black men represent only 2.4 percent of undergraduate students but make up more than half the players on their football and basketball teams.” This statistic is troubling and a bit upsetting considering the fact that most jobs in the United States require some type of degree. With black men in colleges showing higher success rates in athletic spheres than on the academic scale, this points to an institutional issue. More must be done on part of academic institutions to ensure the achievement of black college men.

Here are some of the key issues with professional football being the career aspiration for African-American men:  

Chances of degree attainment is lower than the average undergraduate student

Some never pursue academics after playing professional football

Many never get the chance to work for themselves

Deborah Rhode from The Washington Post says, “81 percent of architects and engineers are white; 78 percent of accountants are white; and 72 percent of physicians and surgeons are white.” This highlights that in the fields of design, engineering, medicine and finance, a disparity exists due to the domination of these fields by a white majority.

This leads me to the most important question in this conversation- Why is this happening?

From the beginning of time, African-Americans have been subjected to lesser equalities. This leads to disproportionate rates in education, healthcare, and most importantly, jobs. Getting black boys to play in the NFL is a tactic to oppress. While playing in the NFL offers a nice pay off, many players lack educational intelligence that could've been offered in college.

While getting an education in the black community is no longer taboo, it is evident that we are still not fully embracing the opportunity to excel at higher education due to the incessant notion that a job in the sports industry is the easiest and best option. To systematically oppress African-American men, the capitalistic system has painted the NFL as an opportunity rather than what it actually is: A Zoo.

Some might say, “Well, some men are truly passionate about playing football and want to show other black boys that they can make it too!” While I agree with this statement, it is time to change the narrative. We’ve got to start making it an accessible choice to reach places that were once labeled as unattainable for African-Americans. This starts by parents having conversations with their sons about pursuing career options other than sports. Another way to increase the male African-American demographic in undergraduate studies is to encourage educators to show students real life opportunities in diverse career fields.


Rhode, D. L. (2015, May 27). Law is the least diverse profession in the nation. And lawyers aren't doing enough to change that. Retrieved from

CHRISTOPHER BOGAN | Dallas Times Herald. (1986, January 27). 41% in NFL Graduate From College : Rate in Pacific 10 Conference Only 38%, Report Shows. Retrieved from

Board, T. M. (2019, February 21). Helping minority youths dream beyond sports. Retrieved from

Renzulli, K. A. (2019, February 04). Here's what the average NFL player makes in a season. Retrieved from

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