Kay Ivey — the Republican Governor of Alabama — doesn’t have more juice than Nick Saban. That’s how things work in the South, especially when you’ve won seven national championships as a head coach in the SEC. And since people are more familiar with Saban than Ivey, it’s fair to ask him about a ruling from the United States Supreme Court that state politicians are ignoring that will continue to hurt the same people who have made him the greatest college football coach of all time.
Just a few days ago, the state of Alabama refused to create a second majority-Black congressional district, which defied last month’s ruling from the United States Supreme Court that found a likely violation of the Voting Rights Act in an Alabama congressional map. Alabama was supposed to draw a new map to rectify the situation that would give Black voters a greater voice. However, “lawmakers in the Republican-dominated House and Senate instead passed a plan that would increase the percentage of Black voters from about 31 percent to 40 percent in the state’s 2nd District. The map was a compromise between plans that had percentages of 42 percent and 38 percent for the southeast Alabama district. GOP Gov. Kay Ivey quickly signed it,” read the report from the Associated Press.
“There’s no opportunity there for anybody other than a white Republican to win that district. It will never, ever elect a Democrat. They won’t elect a Black. They won’t elect a minority,” Sen. Rodger Smitherman, a Democrat from Birmingham, told the AP.
There are 140 seats that make up Alabama’s Legislature. Only 33 of them are Black — 32 of them are Democrats.
Since Saban has been the head coach at Alabama (2007), over 125 players have been drafted from his program. Only 19 of them are NOT Black. The University of Alabama only has a 12.6 percent undergraduate Black enrollment.
If Saban doesn’t know what’s going on in the state that he runs, and what’s being done to the people that look like the players he coaches, then willful ignorance is the only answer. The only other option is cowardice, given that Saban has no problem discussing other political matters that have an “effect on football.”
“Yeah, I have no problem with that. Unionize it, make it like the NFL,” Saban told AL.com’s Michael Casagrande about NIL back in May. “I mean, if it’s going to be the same for everyone, I think that’s better than what we have now. Because what we have now is we have some states and some schools in some states are investing a lot more money in terms of managing their roster than others, and I think this is going to create a real competitive disadvantage for some in the future. And it’s also going to create an imbalance in the competitive nature of the sport, which that’s not good for the sport.”
Saban has been quick to jump in front of a microphone whenever he can to share his feelings about NIL, but that hasn’t been the case when it comes to addressing racial and social issues of the times. And it’s not like this is the first intersection between sports and politics that has made national headlines about things that have occurred in Alabama. Earlier this month, Charles Barkley announced that he’s setting aside $5 million in his will to go to Auburn University as scholarship money for Black students after the Supreme Court ended Affirmative Action.
“In my will, I am leaving Auburn $5 million,” Barkley declared. “I’m going to change it to be just for scholarships for Black students. That’s just my way of trying to make sure Auburn stays diverse. I love Auburn. I’ve actually changed it to be used for kids from poor homes. But after that ruling yesterday, my phone was blowing up. I was talking to my friends and said, ‘I need to make sure Black folks always have a place at Auburn. So I’m gonna change my will and make it exclusively for Black students – all $5 million. It’s just for me the right thing to do. I always want to make sure that Auburn’s diverse.”
If Saban doesn’t address the situation down in Alabama, it will be reminiscent of what Hubert Davis is doing in North Carolina — as like Saban, his job also makes him the state’s most powerful person. Davis is UNC’s first Black head basketball coach, and he’s skirted the responsibilities that come with that honor as he’s been silent on the school’s treatment of Nikole Hannah-Jones and the millions that were not transferred over to the Ida B. Wells Society.
Spiderman’s uncle once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” That adage is as true in real life as it is in movies/comics. Being a head coach at the No. 1 program on your school’s campus on the Power Five level gives you a platform that few can rival. And beyond the salary, perks, and recruiting advantages that come along with the job, is the responsibility to make a change. Republican politicians in Alabama don’t want to redraw a map because they fear the loss of power. Imagine what would happen if the most powerful, and unfireable, person in the state demanded it of them.