But there’s still plenty of room for improvement
Fourth in a multi-part series
The WNBA and the NBA have for several years set the standard for diversity and inclusion in pro sport, consistently getting high marks in racial (A-plus for both leagues) and gender hiring (A for WNBA and B for NBA), says The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES).
Yet both leagues are still far from perfect in its percentages of Black players (nearly 80% in the NBA, almost 70% in the W) relative to league and team on-court and front office positions.
Nearly 28% of the NBA head coaches are Black, the league’s highest percentage since 2014, and the NBA League Office “had better racial and gender hiring percentages than the individual teams,” says the TIDES report.
- League office: 40% (WNBA) and 16% (NBA) are Black
- Team president/CEO: 27% (W) and 9% (N) are Black
- GMs: 27.3% (W) and 21.7% (N) are Black
- VPs: 22.6% (W) and 14% (N) are Black
- Senior administrators: 17.4% (W) and 16% (N) are Black
- Other administrators: 16% (W) and 20% (N) is Black
This year’s TIDES report card says the WNBA “continues to pave the way for racial and gender diversity amongst all professional leagues.” For 15 consecutive years the league has received at least an A for overall race, gender and combined grades. There have been 16 Black league female head coaches all-time, including two in Minnesota, and a league-high five was twice achieved (2011, 2017).
However, the report found a “notable” decline in WNBA Black women head coaches from one in 2019 to none this season for the first time since 2006.
“We have a league that represents 80% women of color. [But] we don’t reflect that in our leadership positions,” said Los Angeles Sparks’ Candace Parker during a June Women’s Sports Foundation panel discussion. “How can we then go out and ask other leagues, other places and other organizations to do these things and hire [Blacks and other women of color] when we don’t do it? That’s a major thing.”
Locally, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx combined have around 25 Blacks in their respective front offices: less than 10 Blacks (Lynx) and 12-13 Blacks (Wolves).
“I feel we have one of the most [diverse] front offices in the NBA or in all of sports,” declared second-year Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas. “We are always looking for the best.
“We are not in the business of checking boxes,” Rosas said. “We want to find the best individuals and we want to support them. We are an organization that values the strength of diversity.
“African Americans are very important to us, to not only relate with our [Twin Cities] market but also our players,” stressed Rosas, who was hired in 2019 after 17 seasons with the Houston Rockets organization.
“We have been in the organization for a year and are looking to create the best staff and organization possible,” Rosas said. “I am very proud of the group we have – individuals that… represent Minnesota and represent this country.
“Can we do better? Particularly with African Americans?” concluded Rosas. “Absolutely.”
Kara Lawson last week was introduced as Duke head women’s basketball coach. She is the school’s first Black coach and third Black female “big hire” at a Power 5 school since March. The MSR was among the many journalists at the July 13 virtual press conference, and her comments will be featured in a future column.
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Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.