The polarization of Deion Sanders since he left Jackson State University for the University of Colorado is still ongoing, and now the social justice and community activism figures are weighing in. From Rev. Al Sharpton to Dr. Umar Johnson, Sanders’ shift from HBCU representative to overall Black college coach advocate has touched a nerve.
TMZ Sports caught up with Rev. Al Sharpton, founder of the National Action Network in New York, who was clear on Coach Prime’s unique connection with the Black community.
Sharpton Supports Sanders
“I think that a lot of us had such pride in him being at an HBCU that we forget that people make personal decisions,” said Rev. Al Sharpton last week in New York City to TMZ Sports. “And they have the right to do that. He’s moved on, and I think that our job is to make sure that Jackson State and others continue at the same level.”
Sanders’ departure from the HBCU system is part of a larger mission for Coach Prime that began with shedding light on the imbalanced collegiate athletics system for athletes at Black colleges. Now he is advancing the ball up the field for Black colleges overall through the lens of the larger Division I system. In general, Sanders’s contribution to Jackson State University and HBCUs is immeasurable.
There are detractors to his new move from the community activism space. One is polarizing Pan-Africanist Dr. Umar Johnson, who gave Sanders a scorching reproach on “The Breakfast Club” radio show on Friday.
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Johnson Calls Sanders’ Move Unmanly
“Deion Sanders used, abused, and exploited HBCU Jackson State just to be given an opportunity to show predominately white institutions that he could coach,” Johnson said to Charlamagne Tha God and DJ Envy on “The Breakfast Club.” “I though he was there for a movement not for money. I foresaw a situation where Deion would hire other coaches, other retired Black NFL greats to coach at other HBCUs. That was an unmanly move.
“The abolition wasn’t just about Frederick Douglass, but if Frederick Douglass would have pulled out, he would have hurt it. The Underground Railroad wasn’t just about Harriet Tubman, but if she would have pulled out, it would have failed. For [Sanders] to pull out of Jackson State the way that he did before making sure the HBCU system survived, to me, was selfish. He chose money over the movement.”
Johnson’s excoriation of Sanders speaks directly to the chasm between those who respect what he did for HBCU upliftment through Jackson State University and those torn that he left before accomplishing more. Sanders is aware of the conversations around his decision and has attempted to explain it for clarity.
“It’s been four or more African-American head coaches at the next level that have been terminated,” Sanders said when he announced his decision to take a head coaching position at Colorado University. “I haven’t heard not one other candidate like myself to replace them. To me, that’s a problem that many don’t think about. If someone don’t step and step out and hold it down for us there’s a problem.”
Sanders has dedicated himself to resolving lingering issues within various athletic systems on behalf of students and coaches. With his goals still rooted in the upliftment of Black people, Sanders’s new scenery doesn’t negate the work he continues to put in for the athletically underserved.