NBA ahead of the curb on racial and gender hires

The NBA is moving in the right direction when it comes to racial and gender hiring, according to the latest report put out by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES). However, the league still has some ways to go to level the playing field when it comes to diversifying key employment areas.

As the NBA and its players vocalize and push the social justice mantle through protests and deeds, the league is backing up all of its talk by walking the walk when it comes to employing women and people of color.

“The NBA has found a way to continue to lead the way when it comes to diverse and inclusive hiring amongst men’s professional sports leagues. There was an upward trend of women in team management positions,” said TIDES Director Dr. Richard Lapchick. “The NBA has been working to improve its grades for gender which have caused concern in the league for several years. The NBA League Office saw record highs in racial and gender hiring this year. People of color working in general manager positions saw a 24-year high met this year with the 1.9 percentage point increase to 28.0 percent. Nine NBA teams had either a woman or person of color as the majority team owner, exceeding the other men’s leagues by far. The NBA is the only league office that has two women who serve as presidents.”

Houston Rockets James Harden
February 6, 2020 © Mark Hammond/News4usonline – Houston Rockets star James Harden goes to the basket against the defense of the Los Angeles Lakers.

The TIDES’ 2020 NBA Racial and Gender Report Card, published July 23, was released just in time the league’s restart on July 30. When it comes to racial hiring, the NBA is at the top of its game, earning an A+ mark from TIDES. The league is on the mark as well when it comes to hiring women, landing a B+ TIDES overall rating.

TIDES gives the NBA an A+ in five of the ten categories it used to help make its outcome determination. Those categories where the NBA reached the plateau of A+ include a grade for the race players (83.1 percent), hiring people of color for head coaches (30 percent), assistant coaches (45.8 percent), the league’s office makeup (39.4 percent), and team management (30.5 percent).

The league office also did well when it comes to hiring people of color for general manager positions (28 percent), scoring an A- and generating a B+ grade for gender hires (40.3 percent) within the league office.

Kawhi Leonard
Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard stuffing the basket against the Los Angeles Lakers. Photo by Mark Hammond for News4usonline

The area where the NBA did not fare too well is gender hiring in NBA team VP positions. The league got a D+ mark in this category. But overall, the NBA has maintained a level of excellence when it comes to hiring people of color and gender, although there are a couple of caveats to consider.

For instance, while the league has an outward appearance of looking great when it comes to the hiring of people of color in the head coaching positions, that percentage is trending downwards when you consider that in 2019 that number was 33 percent. During the 2003-04 season, 48 percent of the NBA’s coaches were people of color (all African Americans).

Today, Black coaches comprise just 23 percent of all head coaches in the NBA. Whites dominate that position with a 70 percent ratio.

Interestingly enough, Black players make up nearly three-quarters (74.2 percent) of all players in the NBA. White players make up 16.9 percent of the athletes in the league. Outside of being the minority on the basketball court, whites own a large percentage of employment opportunities throughout the rest of the league, according to the TIDES study.

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert
October 25, 2019 © Mark Hammond/News4usonline – Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert in warmups before his team play the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.

When it comes to professional employees in the league office, whites hold a shade over 60 percent (60.6 percent) of those jobs. In comparison, Black people occupy 16 percent of those positions. And in actual reality, Blacks and people of color have a much lower occupancy in leadership positions than their white peers. A look at several categories that TIDES highlight in its report show there is a huge disparity gap between people of color and whites in professional staff, radio and TV announcers, head athletic trainers, team management, general manager, vice president, and president positions.

Whites own a large percentage of NBA jobs when it comes to professional staff (64.1 percent), head athletic trainers (74.1 percent), radio and TV announcers (80.5 percent), team management (69.5 percent), vice-president (76 percent), general manager (72 percent), and president (89.1 percent).

There are currently only five Black Americans (20 percent) working as general managers of an NBA ballclub. The disparity is worse for women. Currently, the NBA has no women working as a general manager. The professional employee gap is nearly as wide as the league’s general manager job line with the NBA hiring 179 Blacks (16 percent) out of 1,116 total positions. The league employs 676 people who are white in this same job.

Dwight Howard
Feb. 21, 2020 © Mark Hammond/News4usonline – Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard protecting the rim the rim.

Now, of the 55 CEO/President positions in the league, Black Americans hold down just four of those jobs (7.3 percent). Whites sit in 49 of those positions. Women make up 10.9 percent (a total of six) of those jobs. When it comes to team management jobs, there are 531 (14.9 percent) Blacks working out of the 3,554 positions in the league. Women make up 33 percent (1,173) of those workers, while overall, whites own 2,469 of those jobs.

The TIDES report comes at a time when the nation is wrestling with racial unrest and tumult in the wake of high-profile public killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks at the hands of police.

Calls to overhaul systemic and structural racism have made their dent in corporate America with companies signing off on the Black Lives Matter tagline to try to separate themselves from being labeled as anti-Black or racist. Both the NBA and its sister league, the WNBA, have jumped out in front of this mantra, giving signals that they want to be the ones to lead the charge in this arena.

Feb. 21, 2020 © Mark Hammond/News4usonline – Los Angeles Lakers forward guard Rajon Rondo glides his way to the basket for two points against the Memphis Grizzlies.

“We have worked together with the Players Association to establish a restart plan that prioritizes health and safety, preserves competitive fairness and provides a platform to address social justice issues,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.  “We are grateful to our longtime collaborator Disney for its role in playing host and making this return to play possible, and we also thank the public health officials and infectious disease specialists who helped guide the creation of comprehensive medical protocols and protections.”

In that regard, the WNBA has dedicated its season to addressing social justice issues, starting with the opening weekend when the league’s players all wore the name “Breonna Taylor” on the back of their jerseys.

“We are incredibly proud of WNBA players who continue to lead with their inspiring voices and effective actions in the league’s dedicated fight against systemic racism and violence,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “Working together with the WNBPA and the teams, the league aims to highlight players’ social justice efforts throughout the 2020 season and beyond.  Systemic change can’t happen overnight, but it is our shared responsibility to do everything we can to raise awareness and promote the justice we hope to see in society.”

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