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The New College of Florida has become a testing ground for Governor Ron DeSantis’s war on “wokeness” in education. The state government has shut down entire departments, gutted the office of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and fired allegedly left-wing faculty en masse. And the student body itself is also in the crosshairs. As many students look for the exits in the face of these institutional attacks, the New College of Florida is replacing them by doling out sports scholarships, recruiting a whopping 150 student athletes from primarily Christian private schools since this spring (the school’s entire student body is only 700). In this edition of ‘Choice Words,’ Dave Zirin lays out the purge unfolding at the New College of Florida, and the twisted role of college sports in DeSantis’s takeover.

Studio Production: David Hebden, Cameron Granadino
Post-Production: Taylor Hebden Audio
Post-Production: David Hebden
Opening Sequence: Cameron Granadino
Music by: Eze Jackson & Carlos Guillen


The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors. A proofread version will be made available as soon as possible.

Dave Zirin:

And now, some choice words. Okay, look, you may or may not be familiar with the New College of Florida. This is the tiny 700 students school that the state’s Governor Ron DeSantis has turned into a social experiment by firing a mass of allegedly left wing professors, shutting down entire departments like gender studies, eliminating its diversity, equity, and inclusion workforce, forcing out students, and hiring flunkies to run it, including a media addicted racist named Christopher Rufo.

Wow! For people who rail against woke cancel culture, they have proved in practice what’s been obvious from jump. They don’t give a damn about free speech or a free exchange of ideas. They are leading a war against any discourse that is objectionable to the dark money billionaires pulling their strings. DeSantis and his trolls are quite open about what they’re doing. They want this tiny school to be their Fort Sumter, an opening shot in the name of what they crave to do to education throughout Florida and the United States.

They want to see ideological purges and ruined lives all in the service of an unaccountable right wing authoritarian agenda. And again, they’re open about this and damn proud of how they’ve hollowed out the New College. Every fired professor or expelled student a pelt on their wall. But why am I talking about it here on Edge of Sports?

Well, one reason is that I recently heard the Dream Defenders, a resistance organization in Florida, and a fired New College professor speak, and I was stunned that in the state where my mom was raised and my grandparents took their last breaths, a fascist thought laboratory has been born. But that’s not the only reason.

I’m also talking about the New College because I’m frankly sickened that sports is one of the ways that DeSantis has openly and proudly forcing an ideological cleanse upon the student body. In a recent press release posted on the official Florida Government’s website, a press release that frankly reads like a memo to the billionaires that own him, DeSantis boasts of the success at the New College since his hostile takeover.

He crows that in addition to canceling departments and destroying people’s lives, which yes, he brags about, the former Yale baseball player celebrates and “the introduction of intercollegiate athletics outside of existing intramural sports by forming six teams and a scholarship fund for incoming athletes and recruitment of nearly 150 student athletes since launching the athletic program in the spring.” Just think about that, 150 new student athletes out of just 700 students. Consider those numbers and let’s be clear.

This ain’t about sports, and this definitely isn’t about giving poor student athletes the chance at a college education. This is about the state government sending millions in taxpayer money to the New College so they can basically buy a new right wing student body through the means of athletic scholarships to replace those they forced to leave.

Remember, they are building an athletic department at a school of 700 people so they can throw free college money at athletes coming largely from Christian private schools so they can change the ideological makeup of the school and replace the students who have been driven out. This is about nothing less than taxpayers subsidizing a purge. Look, I love sports and I make no secret about that, but I also know that sports is like a fire, and fire can cook you a meal or fire can burn down your house.

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Dave Zirin is the sports editor of the Nation Magazine. He is the author of 11 books on the politics of sports, including most recently, The Kaepernick Effect Taking A Knee, Saving the World. He’s appeared on ESPN, NBC News, CNN, Democracy Now, and numerous other outlets. Follow him at @EdgeofSports.