Emmitt Smith rips Florida, his alma mater, again for eliminating DEI roles: ‘It’s not even common sense’

Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith made waves with his scathing remarks to his alma mater, the University of Florida, after they eliminated all DEI — diversity, equity, and inclusion — roles at the school based off a controversial state law passed in 2023.

Smith doubled down on the statement he made via social media during an interview with USA TODAY Sports, in which the 55-year-old explained why he spoke up when he did. 

“When I see them destroying DEI for the sake of politics…it’s not even common sense,” Smith explained. “This is just sheer out of spite and sheer power. 


Emmitt Smith at the 58th Academy of Country Music Awards from Ford Center at The Star on May 11, 2023 in Frisco, Texas.  (Gilbert Flores/Penske Media via Getty Images)

“At the end of the day, this country was built on people fighting for what is right for everybody, not just a select few. And with that fight, and with the University of Florida being as visible as it is, it irked me. To the fullest.”

The controversial state law in question was a ban on Florida’s public universities and colleges from any spending on DEI. 

Smith said that he remembered the school’s president saying, “’Nah, we’re the University of Florida. We’re going to be here a lot longer than you, (Gov.) Ron DeSantis, a lot longer than you, Jeb Bush; we’re going to be here a lot longer than any other governor that tries to push something of this magnitude down the throats of so many Americans and so many Florida citizens.’”


Unfortunately for Smith, that isn’t the case now, and he had to let his voice be known as an alumni. 

“I was extremely disappointed,” Smith said, prefacing that statement by explaining that he still feels a part of the university after getting his degree there. “Because when I was in college, and everywhere I’ve been, they always talked about leadership…and how we needed to become leaders — especially athletes.”

But college athletics certainly isn’t the same now compared to when Smith was lighting it up for the Gators on the gridiron. Name, image, and likeness (NIL) brand deals are allowing student-athletes to cash in on their fame. 

To that point, Smith wants Florida to pay up now. 

“Bro, I want my reparations right now from the University of Florida,” he said. “I want to send their (expletive) a bill. I want interest on mine. …When you looked up in those stands you saw a whole lot of E. Smith jerseys up there. E. Smith 22s. You can look at the old videos and see how many jerseys were walking around. And I didn’t receive one red cent.”

Smith added: “Let’s not talk about dismantling DEI at a time I think DEI happens to be a consequence of NIL. You get one, they take the other one away. It’s strategic.”

Emmitt Smith and Dak Prescott

Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys waits for the ball with former Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith before the game against the Buffalo Bills at AT&T Stadium on Nov. 28, 2019 in Arlington, Texas.  (Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

As USA TODAY Sports points out, DEI initiatives have been pulled back not just in Florida, but other schools and even corporate America.

“All of that went by the wayside,” Smith said when talking about DEI in corporations, especially those instituted post-George Floyd’s death. “In other words, they said, ‘This is for the moment.’

“So, what makes you think they are going to do it now? They’re trying to get rid of something that was a pipeline to opening up the opportunities, even for small and minority businesses.”

Smith knows from experience how minority and small businesses are being affected considering his business acumen with his real estate endeavors in the Dallas-Fort Worth area since his career ended. 


In his previous statement about DEI programs at Florida, Smith sent a message to “MANY minority athletes at UF,” where he implored them to “be aware and vocal about this decision by the University who is now closing the doors on other minorities without any oversight.” He also said those who say nothing are “complicit in supporting systemic issues.”

He gave a similar message to USA TODAY Sports. 

“If you are going to go to a university, make sure you go to one that’s open-minded,” he said. “Don’t always think about yourself. And when you think about others, thinking about the decision the University of Florida just made when it comes down to the DEI program. It could impact your family. It could impact your father and mother, your sister or your homie that’s starting a business, who wants to do business in the state of Florida.”

Smith was a three-time Super Bowl champion and four-time All-Pro during his time with the Dallas Cowboys over his 15-year NFL career (final two seasons were played with the Arizona Cardinals). 

Emmitt Smith speaks during Super Bowl week

Emmitt Smith speaks at SiriusXM at Super Bowl LVIII on Feb. 9, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)


Smith is the NFL’s all-time leading rusher with 18,355 yards accumulated over his illustrious career. 

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