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Race, Gender Disparity In Sports Jobs

Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sen. Creigh Deeds greets supporters after casting his vote in Millboro, Va. Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009.
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Women and minorities are losing ground in professional and college sports employment, reversing a trend toward greater diversity, according to a study released Monday.

Every professional sport had lower averages for employing women compared with the last Racial and Gender Report Card two years ago, and minority hiring slipped in pro and college sports, the study found.

"While we are creeping toward fair play, we still have a long road ahead," said sports sociologist Richard Lapchick, author of the report published by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida.

Only baseball, the NBA and NHL improved their grades for minority hiring compared with the 2001 report.

The 12th issue of the report card studied players, coaches and front office/athletic department employees of major league baseball, the NFL, NBA, NHL, WNBA, Major League Soccer and college sports. It found:

  • Minorities (blacks, Asians, Latinos, Pacific Islanders and American Indians) lost ground in most of the top management positions in college and professional sports, including general managers, team vice presidents and college athletic directors.
  • The percentage of black men playing college and pro sports continued its decade-long decline in all sports except college and pro basketball and college baseball.
  • The percentage of international players continued to grow in major league baseball, the NBA, NFL and soccer.
  • Women held less than 45 percent of the head coaching positions for women's college teams in all NCAA divisions.

    "This is a disappointing reversal from the 2001 report, when historically best hiring records were noted both on the basis of race and gender," said Lapchick, who has been tracking gains and losses by women and minorities in sports for 14 years.

    Two of the most noteworthy highlights from the report, Lapchick said, were that:

  • Black Entertainment Television founder and CEO Robert Johnson was awarded the right to purchase the NBA's new Charlotte franchise, which made him the first black majority team owner in pro sports.
  • There was an all-time high of 24 head coaches/managers who were minorities in the three biggest professional leagues.

    The WNBA got the highest combined grade for race and gender at A-minus, the NBA got a B-plus, and the NCAA a B. Major league baseball, the NFL, NHL and Major League Soccer all received combined grades of C on the report card.

    On race, the NBA led with an A, the WNBA, baseball and soccer each got a B-plus, the NCAA got a B, the NFL a B-minus, and the NHL a C.

    On gender, the WNBA led with an A, followed by the NCAA with a B, the NBA and NHL with C's, baseball with a D, the NFL with a D-minus and soccer with the first F ever issued in the history of the report.

    MLS spokesman Trey Fitz-Gerald questioned the grade, since two of the league's eight vice presidents during the reporting period were women. "An F indicates that we would be doing nothing. That certainly isn't the case," Fitz-Gerald said.

    The report card issues grades in relation to overall patterns in society. Thus, with minorities accounting for about 24 percent of the population, an A was achieved if 24 percent of the positions were held by minorities, a B if it was 12 percent, and a C if it was nine percent. There were no grades for race below that level.

    Baseball declined to comment on the report Monday, but last week commissioner Bud Selig said the sport has "done very well" on minority hiring.

    For issues of gender, an A was earned where 45 percent of employees were women, a B for 40 percent, a C for 35 percent, a D for 30 percent and an F for anything below that.

    The NFL, with two minority head coaches in the 2002 season, was at its lowest point since the 1991 season. A third minority coach was hired when Marvin Lewis joined the Cincinnati Bengals in January.

    "Diversity in the workplace is a very high league priority," league spokesman Greg Aiello said. "We are making progress and will continue to work hard in this area."

    At 20 percent, the WNBA had its lowest percentage of black coaches since the founding of the league. Whites held all the coaching jobs in the NHL, which historically has had few minority players.

    NHL spokeswoman Bernadette Mansur noted that there were 16 black players in the league this season, up from 13 last year.

    "It is all about pipeline for us," she said. "We have to just build and get more and more minorities, men and women of color, through our pipeline, playing this game."

    The best news for minority coaches was in the NBA, where blacks held a record 14 head coaching jobs in the 2001-02 season, reaching 48 percent of the total, the highest in the history of any sport.

    "Traditionally, we've made an effort to hire the best people, period," said NBA spokesman Brian McIntyre. "That's worked well for us over the years, and it continues to work well for us."

    By Steve Wilstein