A Bigger Game

May 1, 2021

About the Documentary

There has been great speculation over where Black student athletes should commit to school— Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) or Predominately White Institutions (PWIs)?

In recent years, top high school basketball players like Makur Maker, Hercy Miller, and Shaquir O’Neal have started to change the game — change the college basketball narrative.  These student athletes received offers from Division I PWIs. Many expected them to choose NCAA powerhouse schools like USC, LSU, Kentucky, or UCLA, but they shocked the world by choosing an HBCU. In 2020, Makur Maker committed to Howard University. In 2021, Hercy Miller committed to Tennessee state, and Shaquir O’neal committed to Texas Southern.

The three student athletes spoke of the well rounded cultural experiences they would gain from attending HBCUs, while also being able to make a change, an “HBCU movement”.  Not only are they contributing to the gains and exposure of HBCUs as a whole, they also help work against the neoplantation system that lives within PWI college athletics. 

The neoplantation system suggests PWI collegiate sports are a much bigger game, rooted in economic activity and oppression, with white individuals reaping the main benefits and economic gains of Black labor, similar to the times of slavery. Black athletes are unable to receive any part of financial payouts, though they are the main ones bringing in money and success for the athletic programs, institutions, and networks. With Black college athletes seen primarily as athletic commodities at PWIs, they remain used over their bodies, and even more so their identities.  

As a Black woman pursuing a career in sports journalism, I am passionate about both race and the world of sport. I made this documentary to examine the exploitation of Black student athletes who attend Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs).

For this project, I spoke to two Black college athletes about their experiences— Elijah Olaniyi, a senior at University of Miami and Malik Kennedy, a junior at Morehouse College. Their statements illustrate the work of scholars like Dr. Joseph Cooper, who studies sport, race, education and culture. This film explores the history of HBCU and PWI athletics, as well as the NCAA, current discrepancies between PWI & HBCU athletic programs, and lastly, athlete’s holistic development & support gained beyond athletics at both PWIs & HBCUs.

Though the project is only from the perspectives of two Black student athletes, and is not a universal representation of all experiences, the documentary shines light on the differences that many Black student athletes may experience at each respective school.