WNBA leads the leagues in racial/gender hiring

They’re still the best—the WNBA for the 18th straight year leads all pro leagues in racial and gender hiring.

Last week’s 2022 WNBA Racial and Gender Report Card continues to show that America’s longest women’s pro basketball league is earning high grades: A overall grade, A+ in racial hiring (players, head coaches, assistant coaches, league office and team staff), and A for gender hiring. 

The lowest grades the W got on this year’s report was for team presidents (C-), owners (the league calls them “governors”) and general maWNBA logonagers (both B).

“The WNBA is out front” in so many ways, Richard Lapchick told the MSR last week. Lapchick is The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) founding director. Consider these highlights:

  • Blacks holding professional team staff positions are up from 32 in 2021 to 44 this year.
  • Black head coaches increased from five in 2021 to six in 2022. This makes up 50% of the teams (more on this later).
  • POC assistant coaches are up for the third straight season—almost 62% in 2022.
  • Blacks as VPs are up more than five percent (17.2% to 22.4%).

Unfortunately, the TIDES report does not reflect that since the 2022 season ended, two Black HCs left. Of the five total head coaching openings, none were filled by Blacks. 

As a result, there’s only three Black head coaches in the league: Tanisha Wright (Atlanta) and Noelle Quinn (Seattle) as the only Black female HCs, and James Wade (Chicago) as the only Black male head coach in the W. 

Among the nine women holding team presidents’ positions at the time of TIDES’ data gathering for this year’s report, two are Black (Nikki Fargas, Las Vegas; Daakeia Clarke, New York) and three Black GMs—Wade, Las Vegas’ Natalie Williams, and Derek Fisher, who was Los Angeles coach-GM before he was dismissed during the 2022 season.

Natalie Achonwa
Courtesy of Twitter

The report also noted several new social justice and inclusion initiatives in health equity, food insecurity, LGBTG+ advocacy, civic engagement, and confronting anti-Asian hate. These are both league-led (W players wore Juneteenth warmup shirts and led discussions on the holiday on WNBA.com and social channels) and team-led (Atlanta hosted their first annual HBCU + Divine Nine weekend).

“The overwhelming encouraging part,” continued Lapchick, “is the extensive nature of the diversity initiatives and social justice initiatives, that they’re implemented at the WNBA and also at the NBA.” He especially pointed out how the WNBA players for several years have been out front advocating for social change.

“You got to give credit to the WNBA for athletes protesting,” noted the TIDES director.

Union officials chosen

Los Angeles veteran Nneka Ogwumike last week was elected to her third term as WNBA union president, a role she has held since first elected in 2016. Among the seven-person executive committee, Minnesota’s Natalie Achonwa was reelected as union treasurer along with Elizabeth Williams (Washington). Dallas’ Satou Sabally and Phoenix’s Brianna Turner both were chosen as two of three new vice presidents.

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