NAACP urges students to avoid ‘anti-black’ Florida after DeSantis ends DEI

(Daily Caller News Foundation) – The NAACP wrote a letter to NCAA President Charlie Baker on Monday urging black student-athletes to reconsider attending public universities in Florida after…

(Daily Caller News Foundation) – The NAACP wrote a letter to NCAA President Charlie Baker on Monday urging black student-athletes to reconsider attending public universities in Florida after Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis cut off state funding for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

“Today, the NAACP sent a letter to current and prospective members of the NCAA, calling for Black student athletes to reconsider their decisions to attend public colleges and universities in Florida,” an NAACP statement read.

The letter, signed by NAACP National Board of Directors Chairman Leon W. Russell and President and CEO Derrick Johnson, framed its call for students to avoid Florida schools around DeSantis’ “Stop WOKE Act,” a 2022 bill that eliminated state funding for DEI programs.

“We’re going to elevate merit and achievement above identification with certain groups,” DeSantis said in a May 2023 press conference announcing further legislation to build upon the Stop WOKE Act.

The letter to Baker, a former Republican governor of Massachusetts, also said that warning to black student-athletes came in direct response to the University of Florida’s March 1 decision to close its diversity office and end all DEI initiatives.

The university was following guidance that the State University System of Florida’s board of governors issued in Nov. 2023 following the May 2023 passage of Senate Bill 266, a piece of legislation which bars public colleges and universities from spending taxpayer dollars on DEI programs. 

Governor DeSantis lauded Florida’s decision in a March 1st tweet. “DEI is toxic and has no place in our public universities,” he wrote. “I’m glad that Florida was the first state to eliminate DEI and I hope more states follow suit.”

The Stop WOKE Act prohibits “classroom instruction and curricula from being used to indoctrinate or persuade students in a manner inconsistent with certain principles or state academic standards.” It also bans educators from promoting discriminatory concepts such as the idea that “Members of one race, color, sex, or national origin are morally superior to members of another race, color, sex, or national origin.”

Despite the bill’s seemingly anti-discriminatory language, Baker framed it as “anti-black.”

“Florida’s rampant anti-Black policies are a direct threat to the advancement of our young people and their ability to compete in a global economy,” Johnson said in a statement. “Diversity, equity, and inclusion are paramount to ensuring equitable and effective educational outcomes. The value Black, and other college athletes bring to large universities is unmatched. If these institutions are unable to completely invest in those athletes, it’s time they take their talents elsewhere.”

The letter also attacked Governor DeSantis directly, claiming the Governor “has made no effort to conceal his administration’s devaluation of Black America” and asserting that the “NAACP will remain unwavering in our efforts to hold Governor Ron DeSantis, and all oppressive elected officials accountable for their attempts to unravel our democracy.”

The DeSantis administration dismissed the letter as a political stunt.

“This is yet another Florida-aimed political stunt from the NAACP with no basis,” Bryan Griffin, the Press Secretary for DeSantis’ presidential campaign told the Daily Caller.

Griffin also noted the high rankings of Florida’s education system including their number one ranking in educational freedom. “This world-class education is open to any American, regardless of race. What Florida refuses to do, however—and what prompted this latest political stunt—is have Florida taxpayers pay for political indoctrination or state-sanctioned discrimination as part of our higher education system; that’s why we’ve eliminated DEI,” Griffin told the Daily Caller.

The State University System of Florida also dismissed the letter as a “political attack” in a statement to the Daily Caller. A spokesperson for the State University System noted the success black students have in the state’s education system.

“In addition to being diverse, Florida’s universities are laser focused on student success. Recent data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data system shows Florida’s four-year graduation rate for students who identify as Black or African American is 15 points higher than the national average. Nearly half of all bachelor’s degrees awarded by the State University System of Florida went to students who identify as black/African American or Hispanic,” a spokesperson told the Daily Caller.

Besides the University of Florida, other schools in the state such as North Florida and Florida International University have shut down DEI programs as well, according to the Associated Press.

Other states, such as Texas, have followed Florida’s lead and made efforts to ban DEI initiatives as well.