Everyone privileged enough to attend UNC for four years does some growing up during that time. One part of growing up for me was coming to terms with the fact that UNC isn’t the idealized institution I held in my mind as a kid.
My picture of UNC has been shattered from a variety of angles: how it has responded to destructive political forces, how it has treated survivors of sexual violence and how it has failed to truly reckon with its history of racial violence and exploitation. I’ve realized this university is made up of real people, and with that inevitably comes real flaws.
That holds true with UNC basketball as well.
When I arrived on campus my first year, I was very much a fanboy. My suitemates in Hinton James would joke about how I knew an unreasonable amount about UNC basketball history. Embarrassingly for me now, I would excitedly recount my minor interactions with the players of my class — Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, Joel James and J.P. Tokoto — to my friends. I acted as if they were demigods rather than people.
I was only just beginning to understand the labor exploitation college sports are built on. UNC is a visible part of a system that benefits from the artificially undervalued labor of athletes working in revenue sports — men’s basketball and football — where a majority of the players are black.