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RISE College Athletics Survey on Racism & Athlete Activism Athletes and coaches are overwhelmingly concerned with racism and feel athletes are obligated to act

Over the course of four years, RISE has surveyed more than 12,000 collegiate athletes and 3,400 coaches and athletics staff from over 100 different colleges and universities to understand their perceptions of racism, social justice and athlete activism.

We found the college athletics community believes racism is a concern both in the country and on their campus, and they are willing to be more active as sports leaders to address it.

We have used the survey data to inform university athletics departments across the country and help them work with collegiate athletes to create diversity and inclusion initiatives on their campuses. We have also worked with athletics departments to implement RISE's leadership and cultural competency programming for students, athletes, coaches and staff, empowering them to be leaders in addressing issues of racism, discrimination and inclusion.

See our key findings below.

Racism is still a concern in the United States

94% college athletes

97% coaches and staff

College athletes, as well as coaches and staff, overwhelmingly believe racism is a concerning issue in the country.

Racism is still a concern on campus

66% college athletes

79% coaches and staff

Two-thirds of college athletes and nearly four out of five coaches and staff believe racism is a concerning issue on their campus.

"Our student-athletes are why we're here. They're the reason why college athletic departments exist. We're preparing them to be outstanding people, empowered to stand up against racial and social injustice. They have a huge platform, and when they speak out and speak up, people listen. It's important for us to involve our student-athletes in conversation, listen, and hear what they're feeling. Our student-athletes and issues of racial and social injustice warrant our attention."

Elliott Daniels

Michigan State Associate AD for Student-Athlete Engagement

Athletes and coaches know of racist incidents on their campus

51% college athletes

60% coaches and athletics staff

More than half of all college athletes and coaches and staff surveyed are aware of specific racist incidents that occurred on their campus.

Racism has directly affected someone close to a majority of athletes and coaches and staff

71% college athletes

81% coaches and athletics staff

A strong majority of college athletes and coaches and staff are close to someone that racism has personally touched.

Collegiate Athletes and Coaches Believe in the Importance of Athlete Activism

Both want to take action to address racism and social justice issues


College athletes who feel obligated to raise awareness about social justice issues


College athletes who are willing to speak up and be more active around social issues


College athletes who want to learn more about addressing race, diversity and inclusion issues


Coaches and athletics staff who believe college athletes have an obligation to raise awareness around social justice issues


Coaches and athletics staff who want to learn more about addressing race, diversity and inclusion issues

"What athletics is for is about the student-athlete experience and making sure they have a great experience, and it's important to hear their thoughts. And you're empowering the student-athlete to help guide their own experience and the experience of their fellow student-athletes. You can have a generational gap between student-athletes and administrators."

Jim McHugh

Cal Lutheran Associate VP for Athletic Affairs

Race, Gender and Class Year Can Predict a Collegiate Athlete's Perception of Racism

* This report reflects data collected from 2017 through 2021. Over that time, 12,620 collegiate athletes and 3,415 coaches and athletic staff have been surveyed. RISE continues to collect data on collegiate athlete and coach perceptions on race, social justice and athlete activism.

Race and Climate Perceptions

White Student-Athletes
Student-Athletes of Color

Collegiate athletes of color believe that racism is more of a concern than white collegiate athletes nationally, at the university level, and particularly within their teams.

Female collegiate athletes believe racism is more of a concern than male collegiate athletes within their team and university, as well as nationally.

Gender and Climate Perceptions


School Year and Climate Perceptions


Collegiate athletes become more concerned with racism within their team and university in particular as they progress through college.



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