A Michigan college is having its knuckles rapped by the American Civil Liberties Union because the sport that replaced track in its roster of men’s varsity programs is “among the whitest of sports.”
Central Michigan University eliminated its men’s track program in May 2020, according to Central Michigan Life, the college’s student-run newspaper. Cost issues related to the impact of COVID-19 were cited as a reason to drop the program.
In August, the college announced that its varsity golf program, which had been part of the college from 1936 to 1985, would be revived. Adding a program was necessary to meet the number of men’s varsity teams required to keep the college’s NCAA Division One status.
“The ACLU of Michigan shares the concerns of the many people who believe the program’s elimination has harmful racial implications, and to ameliorate the harm, the university should restore track and field as an opportunity for all students, and particularly students of color,” the letter began.
The ACLU said it was disappointed that a missive containing “historical and social factors” about having a men’s track program brought not a word of reply from the college and said the decision “speaks volumes” about the college’s attitude on race.
The letter then viewed the school’s actions through the lens of race.
“The decision to eliminate track and field, a sport heavily populated by African American athletes, was itself sufficient to raise concerns and questions about the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion,” the letter said.
“But then, after eliminating track and field, the university decided to replace it with a golf program, a sport that is among the whitest of sports. How white is it? It is so white that only three percent of NCAA golfers are African American. How white is it? It is so white, that even at historically Black universities, golf programs faced with a paucity of Black golfers must sometimes make specific efforts to place white golfers on their teams,” the letter continued.
The ACLU was roundly mocked on Twitter.
ACLU wants college athletes to run track, not play golf, calling it ‘among the whitest of sports’https://t.co/yzcjGnzunE
— Campus Reform (@campusreform) September 27, 2021
ACLU wants college athletes to run track, not play golf, calling it ‘among the whitest of sports’ I did not know TIGER WOODS was white. DAMN the most popular golfer in history and they feed you this BS. https://t.co/4wTeSa96E0
— Gina🇺🇸♥️ (@Ginawmson) September 26, 2021
Yes, white males are completely handicapped by their whiteness. They can’t do anything except play golf and oppress people of colour.
— Steamhammered (@steamhammered) September 25, 2021
— Tyler @ RDMP (@TylerProduces) September 27, 2021
When the program was announced, athletic director Amy Folan said it was a way to stay within budgetary realities, according to MLive.
“We have been working diligently toward this goal since I joined CMU 10 months ago. The financial challenges that forced changes in the sports we sponsor remain,” Folan said. “Our top priority is to offer programs that provide an exceptional experience for our student-athletes.”
“I feel strongly we will be able to do this with our men’s golf program based on the financial parameters necessary for a successful program. We are fortunate to have so many fantastic golf courses locally and statewide, which will make this an attractive program for prospective student-athletes,” she said.
However, in attacking what it called “the decision to replace track with a white sport,” the ACLU letter said that the college was dismissing anyone and everyone supporting racial justice.
The decision, so the ACLU wrote, “might be viewed as the university’s way of saying: ‘We hear the concerns about race, but those who are concerned don’t matter. Not only do we not care about these people, but we want to show them that people of color are not wanted at CMU by making the problem worse and rubbing their faces in it.’”
The ACLU said the decision could be seen to be discrimination at work.
“Because African American male athletes participate in track more than any of the other minor sports, replacing CMU’s track program with golf, a minor sports program that is demonstrably ‘white’ speaks volumes about the university’s racial insensitivity if not its discriminatory intent,” the letter said.
The ACLU then told the college to do as it was told or “this issue will otherwise continue to haunt the university well into the future, all the while exacerbating racial tension and promoting the idea that CMU is an institution that is at least indifferent (if not hostile) to the concerns and interests of communities of color.”
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