WNBA sets the standard while Lynx falls behind on race







First in an occasional series


The WNBA recently scored its 10th top grade for race in the 2012 Racial and Gender Report Card (RGRC), which is published annually by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES).

TIDES director and the report’s principal author Richard Lapchick and his staff uses data from the WNBA team media guides, and the league office provides personnel data to evaluate and determine final grades. The September 5 report said that the league set “the standard for racial and gender diversity among all professional leagues” as it scored an A for the sixth consecutive year.

The Minnesota Lynx has had only two Black head coaches, five Black assistant coaches (2006 was the only year in team history when the entire coaching staff was Black) and one Black vice president in its 13-year history. However, the team has not hired any Blacks for other top management positions such as general manager, public relations director and community relations director; or professional administration positions such as marketing, promotions, publications and various other department heads that Lapchick annually grades.

But elsewhere around the WNBA, diversity is more evident, notes Los Angeles Sparks Assistant Coach Jim Lewis. “You can start with this franchise,” he points out.

Paula Williams Madison, who owns The Williams Group, a Black-owned investment company, holds a majority ownership interest in the Sparks — one

of three Black female WNBA owners (retired Sparks player Lisa Leslie and Washington’s Shelia Johnson, the league’s first Black female owner, are the others). Penny Toler is the Sparks general manager, one of three Black females in that position.

“We got Black ownership [in Los Angeles] and Washington has Black ownership,” notes Lewis.

With five Black GMs [42 percent], two Black vice presidents, four Black head coaches (33 percent), along with an increase in Black assistant coaches (up four percent of a year ago from 36 percent to 40 percent), professional administrative positions (doubled from 10 to 20 percent) as well as the hiring of Laurel Richie as WNBA president, the first Black female to lead a professional sports league in 2011, “I’m impressed with the strong diversity throughout [the league] in decision-making positions with people who look like us,” declares Lewis.

When Fred Williams was named Atlanta head coach and general manager on August 27, he became the fourth Black in the league who holds a duel position — Phoenix’s Corey Gaines, Pokey Chatman in Chicago and Washington’s Trudi Lacey are the others.

“With myself being at the helm as general manager and head coach,” admits Williams, “it definitely helps a lot for future [Black] coaches inspired to do what I’m doing.”

Los Angeles Sparks Assistant Coach Jim Lewis
Photo by Sophia Hantzes

Although this season’s Black players’ percentage has reached an all-time high of 74 percent (up five percent from 2011), their overall numbers are down from an all-time high of 139 in 2008 to 100 this season. Conversely, the Lynx’s 2012 nine Black players is down one from a franchise-high 10 Blacks in 2010 and 2011.

“I think everyone [in the WNBA] is teaming to make things better for all diversity [efforts],” concludes Williams.

Subsequent individual reports on MLB, the NFL and college sports will be published in future MSR editions.


Other diversity news

Anucha Browne Sanders has been named NCAA vice president-women’s basketball — her duties include operational oversight of NCAA championships.

Kellen Winslow, Sr. is the new athletics and wellness vice president at Lakeland (Wisc.) College.

Former Indiana University basketball coach Felicia Legette-Jack is the new head women’s basketball coach at the University of Buffalo.


Sports world lost true pioneer 

Simon Gourdine, who joined the NBA in 1970 and at one time was sports’ highest ranking Black executive when he became deputy commissioner in 1974, and later served as National Basketball Players Association executive director in the mid-1990s, died last month.


Information from the Black Coaches and Administrators (BCA) monthly newsletter was used in this report.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.