Not only are the Los Angeles Sparks the WNBA champions on the court, but according to the latest Racial and Gender Report Card (RGRC), they are this year’s diversity champs as well.
“The Sparks organization includes an owner of color in Earvin “Magic” Johnson, a female of color as president and COO in Christine Simmons, and a female of color at general manager in Penny Toler,” states The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport Director Richard Lapchick in his 2016 WNBA report card released last week. “The Sparks are…championing for diversity and inclusion in the front office.”
Overall, the WNBA for the 12th consecutive year received at least A’s for its race, gender and combined grades. As usual and as expected, we primarily look at race — Lapchick’s group graded the league top grades for race in all categories except for team vice presidents (B-).
Sadly, the Minnesota franchise, one of six WNBA teams owned and operated by NBA teams, still gets low grades for race in all categories except for its player roster (eight of 11 players are Black). Let’s, in Family Feud fashion, do the diversity numbers:
- WNBA owners of color, 7) — Minnesota (0)
- WNBA people of color in top management (3 of 4 are Black females) — Minnesota (0)
- WNBA Black general managers (2) — Minnesota (0)
- WNBA team vice presidents of color (12) — Minnesota (0)
- Lynx front office staff — 13; Blacks — 0
- Lynx medical staff — 5; Blacks — 0
- Lynx “dedicated” administration — 5; Blacks — 0
- Lynx media relations staff — 4; Blacks — 0
- Lynx coaching staff — 1 Black female assistant coach
But despite the high grades, a closer examination shows some decreases from a year ago: Black players’ percentages dropped three percent; Black head coaches dropped by one from three to two; Black senior administrators dropped two percent (14.6 to 12.6 percent), and there’s one less team physician of color, down from three to two.
The final analysis: The WNBA overall shows that diversity beyond “statistical tokenism” can be achieved if it is a top priority, and the league has rightly earned its high grades for racial diversity. But that message still eludes the Lynx organization, which remains as poor in diversity as ever.
Globe-tracking the Lynx
Five players are now overseas: Sylvia Fowles (China), Keisha Hampton (Israel), Natasha Howard (South Korea), Renee Montgomery (Poland), and Anna Cruz (Russia and EuroLeague).
Black coaches group now defunct
The organization once known as the Black Coaches and Administrators (BCA was restructured and rechristened with new leadership in February 2015 as Advocates for Athletic Equity (AAE) to continue the never-ending quest to improve coaching opportunities “for all coaches of color.” However, the quest will have to continue without the nonprofit organization, which announced last month it ended business operations due to limited financial support.
Now former AAE executive director Tyrone Lockhart told the MSR that an 18-month effort to attract more corporate sponsorship fell short. “Our membership [was] increasing, but membership alone can’t sustain an organization,” he explained. “The board of directors in August felt we weren’t making enough financial progress to continue operations.
“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to have led AAE and have it promoting coaches for positions of leadership,” continued Lockhart, who added that he hopes to land a position in athletic administration. “I think the biggest thing that I feel successful about is really being able to create awareness on issues facing ethnic minority coaches as they try to climb the ladder to head coaches.”
The issue of more Blacks and other people of color as coaches at all levels isn’t going away anytime soon and needs more advocates, not fewer. “There needs to be an organization to do that,” said Lockhart.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.