The headlines “In Good Hands” and “We finally got it right” were placed above photos of White faces along with one columnist’s thesis that they provide “credibility, direction, and decisive leadership” for Twin Cities pro and college teams. We never read such descriptions in captions with these headshots: Dwane Casey. Sam Mitchell. Milt Newton. Dennis Green. Tubby Smith. Leslie Frazier.
In a major league baseball team’s media guide, we also discovered in an individual’s bio that he twice interviewed for general manager jobs in a five-year span. Whether this was intentional or not, why was this so emphasized?
And after the Minnesota Timberwolves’ diversity sweep last week when GM Milt Newton, Assistant Coach Sidney Lowe, and scout Milton Barnes were among nine persons fired from the basketball operations office, we saw that the long-honored “last hired, first fired” practice in sports and other facets of life still exists for Blacks in our society.
This is also why an organization like Advocates for Athletic Equity (AAE), the rebranding of the old Black Coaches Association (BCA), is needed now more than ever.
“What we are trying to do is really focusing on building relationships and creating opportunities for coaches of color,” offered AAE Executive Director Tyrone Lockhart in a recent MSR phone interview from his Indianapolis office. He joined the organization in February 2015 after holding such jobs as an NCAA assistant director, 13 years with the U.S. Olympic Committee, and assistant coaching positions at Texas A&M at Kingsville and George Washington.
A head coach in charge of their sport program is in essence “a CEO,” continued Lockhart. But too often if the man or woman is Black, reaching that level can be a hard climb filled with career-stifling holes. “We all know that ethnic coaches probably are not going to get the top job, so they are going to need a couple of years or so to be able to develop their programs and get that thing turned around,” he said. “Our top ethnic coaches” should get an opportunity to advance, he stated.
The Achieving Coaching Excellence (ACE) series of workshops for assistant coaches of color is one such opportunity: “We put them through simulated interviews, getting them in front of athletic directors, chancellors and presidents” as well as understanding the importance of developing relationships with “media-type personnel,” explained Lockhart. “It’s basically trying to create development opportunities, create opportunities for industry networking, and also strengthening the mentoring process.”
“We all know that ethnic coaches probably are not going to get the top job.”
Lockhart adds that part of his job is to be “constantly communicating with [athletic directors] talking about candidates” because these persons normally have “got a short list of [coaches],” he pointed out.
Furthermore, “I am not sure that the ‘Rooney Rule’ can be instituted at the college level because of the autonomy of member institutions,” admitted Lockhart on the suggestion that college sport adopt a mandate similar to that of the NFL that at least one Black is interviewed for a head coaching vacancy but not mandating that the non-White candidate be hired.
“One of the things I am working on is something as simple as a pledge or a proclamation” for college and university presidents to sign and fully commit to that they will “hire ethnically diverse coaches and administrators.”
Lockhart says he plans to sit down with the NCAA ad-hoc committee on diversity and inclusiveness soon to discuss the AAE pledge. “Hopefully at some point this summer we can sit down with that group and have a strategy session on the pledge and other things.”
Hopefully, the proposed session’s agenda will also include raising awareness against the use of culturally conditioned headlines and captions in local newspapers.
Another “Tales of The Only One” installment can be found here.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.