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Birmingham Mayor Woodfin: Black Athletes Should Avoid Alabama Schools if Anti-DEI Bill Passes

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An Alabama Senate Committee on Wednesday passed a bill that would prohibit public institutions of higher education from maintaining diversity, equity and programs and offices. (Screengrab, The Alabama Channel)

By Barnett Wright | The Birmingham Times

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said he will have no problem steering Black athletes away from colleges and universities in Alabama if state lawmakers passed a bill that would prohibit public institutions of higher education from maintaining diversity, equity and programs and offices.

On Wednesday, a Senate Committee advanced the bill — SB 129 — which now goes to the full Alabama Senate. The proposed law “would prohibit certain public entities, including state agencies, local boards of education and public institutions of higher learning, from maintaining a diversity, equity, and inclusion office or department or sponsoring any diversity, equity, and inclusion program.”

On social media, Woodfin said he’s the biggest Bama fan but “will have no problem organizing Black parents and athletes to attend other institutions outside of the state where diversity and inclusion are prioritized.”

The mayor questioned why parents of Black athletes would want to send their children to any school in the state that discouraged diversity.

“To the parents of minority athletes who are helping their children decide if they want to play sports at those institutions: Would you be cool with your child playing at schools where diversity among staff is actively being discouraged?” he asked.

Posing a question to “leadership, athletic directors and coaches at University of Alabama, Auburn University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham … do you support this prohibition of diversity and inclusion?” he asked.

In his post, the mayor wondered why the state would “make it illegal for institutions of higher learning to promote diversity and inclusion among its faculty and staff? Why would you block fair representation and opportunities for all people?”

Senate Bill 129, sponsored by Sen. Will Barfoot, R-Pike Road and filed on Tuesday, came to the Senate’s County and Municipal Government Committee on Wednesday where it passed out 7-3 with Sens. Merika Coleman (D-Pleasant Grove); Linda Coleman-Madison (D-Birmingham) and Kirk Hatcher (D-Montgomery) voting no.

The bill would forbid public schools from affirming “a divisive concept,” with such examples as teaching that “slavery and racism are aligned with the founding principles of the United States” and that “fault, blame, or bias should be assigned to members of a race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin, on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin.”

Republicans hold a supermajority in the Alabama Legislature, which means they are in position to pass any bill they favor.

“Bills like this are hard,” Sen. Merika Coleman said during Wednesday’s committee meeting. “In this [Legislative] body there are 140 members and only 35 are African Americans … just because you have power doesn’t mean you have to wield it.”

Barfoot, the sponsor, said during the committee meeting, he does not believe the bill would curtail the teaching of history.

“When you see and hear what allegedly has happened, at the very least, in schools where divisive concepts as listed in the bill I [do not] believe [the bill] prohibits any specific type of history … to the contrary it allows academic freedom,” he said.

Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison asked why not have the bill go the state board of education?

The state board addressed some of the divisive concepts “by rule,” Barfoot said, adding that “rules can be changed a lot easier that statutes.”

In his social media post, Woodfin had one final parting shot for the Republican majority Legislature: “If supporting inclusion becomes illegal in this state, hell, you might as well stand in front of the school door like [Former Alabama] Governor [George] Wallace,” Woodfin said. “Mannnn it’s Black History Month. Y’all could have at least waited until March 1.”