Civil Rights in Sports


Systemic racism is ingrained in America's laws, economics, culture, and sports. SFC supports inclusion and equality and hereby adopts this civil rights platform.

Promoting Franchise Ownership by People of Color

In the major sports leagues, there are 150 teams. However, only one has a Black majority owner -- Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets. The NFL is even more abysmal. In more than 100 seasons, the NFL has never had a Black-owned team, despite that 60% of the league’s athletes are African-American.

One culprit to the lack of ownership by people of color is that teams rarely come up for sale, and when they do they cost billions. Systemic racism has prevented African-Americans from generating the wealth they would need to purchase a team. However, billionaire white team owners are still given government assistance in the form of tax breaks and publicly funded stadiums, a burden faced almost exclusively by lower-income Americans. 

In 2017, Cobb County, Georgia taxpayers paid $400 million for the Braves’ new stadium -- a deal which was largely negotiated in secret between the team and government officials. To fund this stadium, officials cut the budget for public parks, taxed hotel rooms, and rental cars, and then raised property taxes. All this for a Colorado-based corporate owner, Liberty Media Corporation whose management team consists of four white men and two white women. Half of Cobb County is non-white.    

Almost 60% of the population of New Orleans is Black. In 2019, the Superdome where the Saints play needed to be renovated. The cost of the renovations is estimated at $450 million. Despite President Dennis Lauscha saying the Saints are “100 percent committed to this market, 100 percent committed to this state,” the Saints only agreed to pay a third of the cost. Leaving Louisiana taxpayers on the hook for the rest. Owner Gayle Benson has an individual net worth of $3.2 billion, yet they claimed the team could not afford the renovations on their own.  

Stories like these happen in every major sports market in the country, including Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC. Taxpayers in cities that have large non-white taxpayers are expected to foot the bill for white billionaires. If those cities refuse, these owners threaten to take the team away. 

Sports Fans Coalition believes that a team’s ownership should reflect its fan base -- especially a team which receives public dollars from that fan base. Therefore, in order to promote ownership of professional sports by people of color, SFC calls on all cities and states to require any team receiving public dollars for a renovation of or a new sports stadium divest at least 25% of its shares to non-white individuals or companies owned and operated by non-whites. One way to accomplish this goal is by encouraging sports teams to be owned by their fans. 

Name, Image, and Likeness

The NCAA, sports apparel and merchandise companies and media conglomerates earn billions of dollars in sports-related revenue each year, yet claim to operate in the name of so-called “amateurism.”  While college athletic programs often help students gain a college education, they too often extract economic gains from athletes while denying those young men and women a real chance to complete their degrees or otherwise share in the bounty created by the athletes’ own blood, sweat, and tears.  

When you become a student-athlete, you sign away your likeness to the NCAA. If you ever make any money off of your identity, you are stripped of your eligibility. Yet, the NCAA can rake in billions off of your image if they want.  This is absurd and unfair to thousands of athletes who struggle to afford books, food, or rent. 

Fans want the best for their teams' players. For student-athletes, that starts with giving them back rights over their own image and likeness. College athletics provide outstanding educational opportunities to students, but that should not come at the sacrifice of their personal identity. 

Recently, due to public pressure, the NCAA is starting to loosen up on those regulations. However, this is voluntary and can be changed at any time. Sports Fans Coalition calls on lawmakers in the states and at the federal level to protect college athletes’ rights in the statute. 

Equal Pay for Equal Play

In May of 2020, a federal judge rejects the US Women’s pay-discrimination claim. The judge stated that the US Women’s team failed to prove that the women were paid less. The problem is in the complicated differences between the men’s and women’s collective bargaining agreements. Women are expected to play more games than the men, and in order to earn more bonus money, the women have to win far more games than the men. 

Athletes who play for the same organization, like the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), should not have to operate under separate collective bargaining agreements. Men and women deserve the same pay structures, the same working conditions, and the same benefits. The US Congress can protect female athletes by amending the Ted Stevens Act which charters the USSF to require any governing body of sport to ensure that all compensation, benefits, and working conditions are equal between the men’s and women’s teams. 

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