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Ky’Wuan Dukes is a redshirt-freshman wide receiver, who attends the historically Black college/university Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina,
Dukes was North Carolina’s first native to also become the first HBCU athlete to sign an endorsement deal with the southern-based chicken chain Bojangles only three weeks after the NCAA’s seismic decision to allow student-athletes to profit off their name, image, and likeness (NIL).
Ky’Wuan Dukes looks to change the perception of HBCU sports programs.
“I’ve heard negative stuff about going to HBCUs, such as having [a lack of quality] facilities, uniforms, and stuff like that,” Dukes told Mens Health. “But as long as there’s something I and others can contribute, we will continue to improve. HBCUs are getting more exposure and being put in the position for others to see us. Now we are seeing that change.”
Prior to the rule change, Black college football players, who often generate the most revenue for their respective schools, were unpaid and beholden to rigid rules banning them from profiting off their talents.
Growing up in Statesville, North Carolina, in his senior year at Statesville High School, Dukes snagged 58 receptions for 830 yards and seven touchdowns, was an All-County and All–North Piedmont Conference selection, and led his high school team to a championship and an undefeated 11–0 season.
The power dynamic is shifting in college football
“I didn’t go [to an HBCU] to get a deal. I feel like we are going to HBCUs because we want to make changes. It doesn’t have to just be a Power 5 school every year or any other conference. That’s why I feel like myself and other athletes are doing it.”
With his Bojangles NIL deal, Dukes joins quarterbacks DJ Uiagalelei and Sam Howell of Clemson University and UNC-Chapel Hill, respectively, as athletes who have signed on with the popular chicken brand. He’s yet to play a single down with the Golden Bulls and is already helping elevate HBCUs to the same level as the major conferences that monopolize the headlines.
According to Sports Illustrated, there was an uptick in HBCU interest among elite prospects after the killing of George Floyd in 2020, as an abundance of Black Lives Matter protests and marches brought out countless world leaders, celebrities and athletes to speak against racism, inequality and police brutality.