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Say athletes have a duty to promote social justice

October 14, 2020

NEW YORK - College athletes, coaches and athletics staff are overwhelmingly concerned with racism on campus and beyond, and they feel athletes have an obligation to lead and act, data from an ongoing three-year RISE survey of campuses has found.

Among college athletes surveyed, 91 percent of them said racism is still a concerning issue in the United States, and 95 percent of coaches and athletics staff said it remains a concerning issue. When it comes to racism on college campuses, 65 percent of athletes and 76 percent of coaches and staff labeled it a concerning issue. While the sports community's role in the social justice movement has long been a topic of discussion, 78 percent of athletes surveyed feel obligated to raise awareness about social justice issues, and 67 percent of coaches and staff surveyed said their athletes have a responsibility to raise awareness.

Over three years, RISE surveyed more than 6,200 college athletes and 1,200 coaches and athletics staff from 50 different colleges and universities from every region of the country to understand their perceptions of racism, social justice and athlete activism.

Collegiate athletes and coaches believe in the importance of athlete activism and both want to take action to address racism and social justice issues. Eighty-four percent of college athletes surveyed said they are willing to speak up more about social issues. There is an eagerness for more education and means to empower athletes, coaches and staff to address issues of race, diversity and inclusion, too, as 74 percent of athletes and 85 percent of coaches and staff want to learn more about how to better tackle these topics.

"RISE began collecting this data three years ago to better inform our programming, and what these numbers make abundantly clear is that college athletes, regardless of race, feel racism is still a challenge in our society - something that has been demonstrated in their willingness to take action over the past few months," said Dr. Andrew Mac Intosh, RISE VP, Curriculum. "The data also identifies a strong desire among athletes, coaches and staff to be educated about these topics as they wish to better understand, empathize and act moving forward."

For a strong majority of those surveyed, issues of race have affected them on their own campus and within their own circles. More than half of all those surveyed are aware of specific racist incidents occurring on campus, and racism has directly affected someone close to 65 percent of college athletes and 77 percent of coaches and athletics staff, too.

Race, gender and class year can predict a collegiate athlete's perception of racism as well, according to survey data. Non-white collegiate athletes' level of concern with racism nationally, within the university and within their teams was higher than white athletes' levels. Concerns with racism grew among collegiate athletes as they progressed through college with each year, and overall female collegiate athletes believe racism is more of a concern than male collegiate athletes.

For more information and data on the RISE College Athletics Survey on Racism & Athlete Activism, please click here or visit risetowin.org.

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