March Madness Meets Black History: Breaking Barriers And Calling Out The Foul Play Of Racism

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Both the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments generate millions of dollars every year, in large part due to Black student athletes. According to Forbes, “Black men comprise 50% of the 68 teams in the 2024 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. More than one of every three student-athletes (36%) in this year’s women’s tournament is Black.”

This is a relatively recent phenomenon as for many decades, college basketball was essentially an almost all-white sport. “Until the 1950s, Black people playing on campus courts were rare exceptions.”

This legacy of exclusion had a long-lasting impact. It wasn’t until April 2, 1984, that John Thompson made history when he became the first Black coach to win the NCAA basketball tournament,984 that John Thompson made history when he became the first Black coach to win the NCAA basketball tournament coaching the Georgetown Hoyas to victory.

But it was bittersweet. As Thompson told ESPN, “I might have been the first Black person who was provided with an opportunity to compete for this prize, that you have discriminated against thousands of my ancestors to deny them this opportunity.”

“So, I felt obligated to define that, and I got a little criticism for saying it, because some young guy came up to me and asked me, ‘How does it feel, coach Thompson, to be the first African-American…,’ and I said ‘I feel offended by the fact of what you’re saying.’ But, I explained to him because a lot of men were deprived of the opportunity, who would have won it far before I did,” Thompson added.

On the women’s side, Kenny Brooks was the first Black head coach to lead Virginia Tech to their first ever final four appearance just last year.

From the Utah’s women’s basketball team being the victim of racial hate crimes to LSU’s racialized depiction…

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