UVA instructor wants to ban the term ‘student-athlete’ for its 'arguably racial' undertone

She says that the phrase has "arguably racial" undertones and prevents "a pay-for-play model."

A Ph.D. student at the University of Virginia is suggesting that the term 'student-athlete' is a racial and oppressive phrase.

Molly Harry, a Ph.D. student at the University of Virginia who is studying intercollegiate athletics authored an op-ed suggesting that the phrase “student-athlete” be abolished. Harry’s LinkedIn profile describes her as an “instructor and graduate research assistant.”

The piece, published by Diverse Education, demanded that universities put an end to calling college athletes “student-athletes,” stating that the term has “arguably racial” undertones and that it prevents “a pay-for-play model.”

“As we recognize and come to terms with our country’s oppressive and racialized history and that history’s nexus with higher education, it is important to continue to understand the role of athletics in this relationship,” Harry wrote. 

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She celebrated colleges throughout the country recently removing symbols, songs, and changing “social injustices.” 

Harry described a mid-20th century court case in which offensive Fort Lewis A&M offensive lineman Ray Dennison was killed after suffering a head injury. His widow filed for death benefits since the injury happened as a result of his athletic involvement with the school. But the 1955 case resulted in Dennison being unable to be labeled as an employee of the institution. 

Rather, he was called a “student-athlete,” absolving the school of liability.

Harry argued that “student-athlete” is a racially charged term because “today, the majority of revenue-producing athletes in the sports of football and men’s basketball are Black. They are coached mostly by White men. The man who coined the term student-athlete was also a white man. Using the term student-athlete perpetuates the ideals of amateurism, while further preventing a play-for-play model.”

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”These actions largely favor one group: white men. These actions largely disadvantage one group: Black men. We can no longer deny the prejudicial, arguably racial, undertones associated with calling this higher education population student-athletes,” Harry said.

She also suggested that some players, particularly athletes of color, are angry that the term prevents them from getting paid.

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”Some students, particularly athletes of color in revenue-generating sports, are enraged, knowing that this term prevents them from receiving compensation they feel they are owed,” Harry wrote.

Campus Reform reached out to Harry and the University of Virginia for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Jess__Custodio