ANOTHER VIEW By Charles Hallman—WNBA diversity still far from ideal


Teresa Edwards -Photo by Onika Nicole Craven

The WNBA is the diversity leader among America’s professional sports leagues, according to the Institute for Diversity in Sports’ (TIDES) latest racial and gender report card.
This is the eighth time that Richard Lapchick’s group has awarded the WNBA at least an A grade for race (2001, 2004, 2005, 2006-07, 2008, 2009, 2010 and now 2011). TIDES used data from the 2011 season and analyzed the racial breakdown of the players, league office management, top team management, general managers, head coaches, assistant coaches, senior administration, professional administration, physicians and head trainers.
Among the report’s highlights is the hiring of Laurel Richie this past April as the new league president, the first Black woman and female of color to become president of a professional sports league.
However, “View” found that Whites have shown significant growth in several areas, while Blacks either have stayed stagnant or declined in the WNBA.

Whites saw the biggest growth (258 percent) in senior administrative positions (directors, assistant general managers, chief legal counsel, COOs, chief financial officers, public relations director and community relations director). There were 12 Whites in 2010 — now it’s 43. Meanwhile, the number of Blacks has remained at four.

The next biggest growth for Whites was in professional administration — these titles don’t include traditional support staff such as secretaries, administrative assistants and receptionists: a 175 percent increase, while just a 50 percent increase for Blacks.

White players also grew 19 percent (from 26 to 31) over a year ago, while Black players dropped 9.8 percent (112 to 101). White assistant coaches grew 33 percent, from nine to 12 — but there has been no growth among Black assistant coaches (seven) since 2009.

Furthermore, there also has been no increase in Black CEOs/presidents (one) in three years as well as Black GM/player personnel directors (four) and senior administrators (four) in two years. But Whites have increased in professional administrators (28 to 77), senior administrators (12 to 43), vice presidents (21 to 34) and CEOs/presidents (14 to 21).

A Black-owned investment company holds a majority interest in the Los Angeles Sparks, but there has been no increase in Black majority owners since 2006, while Whites have increased 8.3 percent since 2010.

There was one Black team physician last year; there are none this season.
However, Blacks have shown a significant growth as head coaches — a 25 percent increase (four to five) from a season ago — while White head coaches dropped 12.5 percent (from eight in 2010 to seven this season).

What about the local WNBA club, the Minnesota Lynx, you might ask? Only on the court do you see significant diversity — 10 of 11 players are Black. Otherwise, there is only one Black who fits any of the aforementioned categories that Lapchick grades for race: Assistant Coach Shelly Patterson. (Cue up Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely.”)

So what does this all mean? As the W rightly earned their A-plus in race for head coaches, similar grades for assistant coaches, top management and senior administration seem inflated given the fact that the number of Whites increased and the number of Blacks didn’t. More so the B grade for professional administration seems a bit high as well, but the D grade for team vice-presidents is appropriate.

Finally, as the franchise is performing well on the court this season, off-court the Lynx still earns poor diversity grades. Other than for its player roster, the “View” grading staff still can’t find it in their hearts, or in a curve, to award any top grades for Minnesota.

Rightly deserved

Teresa Edwards now can write “HOF” next to her name as she rightly took her place in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. She is the first Hall of Famer to ever wear a Minnesota Lynx uniform.

I wonder if her name will hang in the rafters of the downtown Minneapolis arena as do the other male HOFs who either played for the local pro team [Lakers] or hail from the area. If it occurs, Edwards would be the first Black player as well as first female to have her name etched on the local banner.

“I have had a hard time in my life accepting that I was different, better, or in a position where people really recognized my game,” she told me after her HOF induction August 12. “I just played to win — I wasn’t flashy or I didn’t play for the cheers.

“The Hall of Fame solidified the fact that you actually had a great career and you are worthy of this mentioning. For the rest of your life, you are associated with the highest prestige in the land for basketball,” Edwards said humbly.

The Minnesota Lynx clinched a spot in this year’s playoffs Saturday in their defeat of LA. It also should be noted that the last time Minnesota reached the playoffs was in 2003 and 2004 with Edwards at point guard.

“I am happy for them,” said Edwards of the Lynx’s 2011 post-season chances. “They will go there without me.”

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to