New study: racism a top concern among college athletes and coaches


Racism remains a top concern on college campuses as well as in the country at large, says a new study. The Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), a national nonprofit started in 2015 by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, last week released results from a three-year data-gathering project that began in 2017.

Study authors talked to over 6,200 college athletes and 1,200 coaches and athletic staff from 50 U.S. colleges and universities about their perception of, among other things, racism and social justice issues. The findings are as follows:

  • 91% of college athletes and 95% of coaches and staff see racism as a concern in the U.S.
  • 65% of college athletes and 76% of coaches and staff see racism as a concern on campus.
  • 65% of college athletes and 77% of coaches and staff say racism has directly affected somewhere close to a majority of athletes and coaches and staff.
  • Nearly 80% of college athletes feel obligated to raise awareness about social justice issues.
  • 85% of college athletes say they are willing to speak up and be more active on social issues.
  • 74% of college athletes and 85% of coaches and staff say they want to learn more about addressing race, diversity, and inclusion issues.
  • 67% of coaches and staff believe college athletes have an obligation to raise awareness around social justice issues.
Charles Hallman/MSR News Josh Fenton

RISE, an alliance of sports leagues, organizations, athletes, educators, media, and sports professionals, has since its founding worked with local pro teams (Minnesota Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves), colleges and universities (Carlton, Macalester, University of St. Thomas), the MIAC and the Sanneh Foundation. They also worked with the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC), Commissioner Josh Fenton told the MSR last week.

“They are going to help us in further climate discussions, and surveying student-athletes and coaches, and then really help us identify the areas where we can have an impact,” said Fenton during the Oct. 16 media call on the league’s 2020-21 season plans.

Shortly after establishing the NCHC Student-Athlete Task Force in spring of 2019 to look at diversity and inclusion among other items of importance, Fenton talked exclusively to the MSR (Nov. 28, 2019): “Student-athletes are faced with different types of issues on a day-to-day basis. One of the things I think is going to be very important is diversity and inclusion,” stressed the NCHC commissioner.

After George Floyd’s death in May, the NCHC released a statement against racial injustices and police violence against Blacks. Since then, the league task force, which consists of Fenton, two coaches, two athletic directors, two faculty athletics representatives, and a member school president or chancellor, have met several times, said Fenton.

“I do believe that in the next month or so we will have an initiative in place and a focus for the year,” he announced. “We are doing things like campus assessments on each of our campuses and having discussions with each of our athletic directors on their understanding of what their campus is like.”

“There is a lot going on,” surmised Fenton, which includes a 26-game conference schedule and two-part format. There will be a centralized location, known as the Pod, at the University of Nebraska-Omaha where all eight NCHC teams will play 10 games each during the first three weeks of December. Then in January, each team will host games on their respective campuses for the second part of the schedule.

The continuing coronavirus pandemic forced such a first-time setup, Fenton stressed. “It’s difficult to regionalize a conference that spans three time zones,” he concluded. “We looked at how we could limit our travel. It is our best opportunity to start the season safely.”

Finally, our condolences to the Sid Hartman family. The longtime Star Tribune sportswriter died Sunday at age 100. His final column was published that day, the last of 119 columns and over 21,000 bylines of his nearly 75-year career beginning in 1945. All of us who have been around the local sports scene have a Sid story or two.