Survey: Coaches, athletes think racism an issue

College athletes and coaches overwhelmingly feel that racism is a concern both on campus and in the country as a whole and that they have an obligation to act, according to a three-year survey released Wednesday.

RISE, a national nonprofit that educates and empowers the sports community to champion social justice and improve race relations, surveyed more than 6,200 college athletes and 1,200 coaches and athletics staff from 50 colleges and universities across the nation over a three-year period to gauge their perception of racism, social justice and athlete activism.

Though the survey started collecting data in 2017, attitudes toward race and athlete engagement in social justice issues have remained constant and did not see a dramatic spike after the racial and social justice movement that began shortly after George Floyd's death in May.

Among the athletes surveyed, 91% said racism is a concerning issue in the United States, and 95% of coaches and athletics staff said it remains a concerning issue. As for racism on college campuses, 65% of athletes and 76% of coaches and staff said it was a concerning issue.

There was one other topic that had a double-digit gap in responses: the question about an athlete's role to speak out for change: 78% of athletes surveyed feel obligated to raise awareness about social justice issues, while 67% of coaches and staff said the same.

Along those same lines, 84% of college athletes surveyed said they are willing to speak up more about social issues.

"RISE began collecting this data three years ago to better inform our programming, and what these numbers make abundantly clear is that college athletes, regardless of race, feel racism is still a challenge in our society -- something that has been demonstrated in their willingness to take action over the past few months," said Dr. Andrew Mac Intosh, RISE VP of curriculum, in a statement. "The data also identifies a strong desire among athletes, coaches and staff to be educated about these topics as they wish to better understand, empathize and act moving forward.