emmitt smith
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Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith recently made waves with his cutting remarks to his alma mater, the University of Florida after they eliminated all DEI – diversity, equity, and inclusion – roles at the school based on a controversial state law passed in 2023. Smith doubled down on the statement he made via social media during an interview with USA TODAY Sports, where he explained why he spoke up when he did.

Smith explained, “When I see them destroying DEI for the sake of politics, it’s even common sense. This is just sheer out of spite and sheer power. At the end of the day, this country was built on people fighting for what is right for everybody, not just a select few. And with that fight, and with the University of Florida being as visible as it is, it irked me. To the fullest.” The controversial state law in question was a ban on Florida’s public universities and colleges from any spending on DEI.

Smith said that he remembered the school’s president saying, “‘ Nah, we’re the University of Florida. We’re going to be here a lot longer than you (Gov.) Ron DeSantis, a lot longer than you, Jeb Bush; we’re going to be here a lot longer than any other governor that tries to push something of this magnitude down the throats of so many Americans and so many Florida citizens.'” Unfortunately for Smith, that isn’t the case now, and he had to let his voice be known as an alumnus.

“I was extremely disappointed,” Smith said, prefacing that statement by explaining that he still feels a part of the university after getting his degree there. “Because when I was in college, and everywhere I’ve been, they always talked about leadership…and how we needed to become leaders — especially athletes.” But college athletics certainly isn’t the same now compared to when Smith was lighting it up for the Gators on the gridiron. Name, image, and likeness (NIL) brand deals are allowing student-athletes to cash in on their fame. To that point, Smith wants Florida to pay up now.

He said, “Bro, I want my reparations right now from the University of Florida. I want to send their (expletive) a bill. I want interest on mine. When you looked up in those stands you saw a whole lot of E. Smith jerseys up there. E. Smith 22s. You can look at the old videos and see how many jerseys were walking around. And I didn’t receive one red cent.” Smith added: “Let’s not talk about dismantling DEI at a time I think DEI happens to be a consequence of NIL. You get one, they take the other one away. It’s strategic.”

As USA TODAY Sports points out, DEI initiatives have been pulled back not just in Florida but also in other schools and even in corporate America. “All of that went by the wayside,” Smith said when talking about DEI in corporations, especially those instituted post-George Floyd’s death. “In other words, they said, ‘This is for the moment.’ So, what makes you think they are going to do it now? They’re trying to get rid of something that was a pipeline to opening up the opportunities, even for small and minority businesses.”

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