NBA racial and gender report card shows improvement on an already strong record

Editor’s note: Richard Lapchick is a human rights activist, racial equality pioneer, sports expert, scholar and author.

The NBA received one A+ for racist hiring practices and a B+ for gender biased hiring practices, overall score A as reported in the 2022 NBA Racial and Gender Report Card released Wednesday. All three results were significant increases over the 2021 report card.

There has been a positive trend for women at both team and league office level. The NBA league office achieved 43.4%, the highest proportion of women in professional leadership positions in more than a decade. Both the Team Vice President and Team Senior Management categories also saw gains, reaching 30% and 39%, respectively. Room to grow but better.

In the 2021/22 season, 82.4% of players were Black – by far the highest figure compared to any other sport. There were milestone hires for head coaches and general managers. These are the two most scrutinized positions on NBA teams. They are the public faces of teams at the local and national levels. They are often the focus of any assessment of whether a position will be filled by a white person or a person of color.

The proportion of people of color among general managers increased from 40% in the 2020-21 season to 50% last season. At the start of the 2021 season, there were 12 General Managers of Color.

The most notable trend reversal was that people of color also held 50% of head coaching positions, after seven of the eight open head coaching positions were filled by black or African American men in the past offseason.

Darvin Ham and Mike Brown, both African American coaches, were hired by the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings, respectively. At the time the testimony was released, there were 16 head coaches of color. The 15 black head coaches surpassed the 2011-12 leagues record of 14 black or African-American head coaches.

“While there is still work to be done to advance equality for women and people of color, it is exciting to see the progress being made at both the team and league levels across the NBA,” said Brian Wright, NBA general manager San Antonio Spurs. “Projects like the Racial and Gender Report Card allow us to further advance the conversation and inspire future change and growth. As the NBA community, we must remain focused on finding ways to make this change happen. We all share a duty to build on that foundation.”

The next most public position is perhaps chief executive officer and/or a president for NBA teams. There were four Black individuals in each of these positions: Fred Whitfield (president, vice chairman, Charlotte Hornets), Cynthia Marshall (CEO, Dallas Mavericks), Koby Altman (president of basketball operations, Cleveland Cavaliers), and Masai Ujiri (president and vice president). Chairman, Toronto Raptors). And there were six women in one of those positions: Matina Kolokotronis (chief operating officer, Sacramento Kings), Jeanie Buss (CEO, Los Angeles Lakers), Gillian Zucker (general manager, LA Clippers), Marshall (Dallas), Mel Raines (executive vice). President of Corporate Communications, Community Engagement and Facility Operations, Indiana Pacers) and Gretchen Sheirr (President of Business Operations, Houston Rockets).

Adam Silver has provided the call to action for hiring more women and people of color in both the league office and teams. It starts at home.

The NBA has two women serving as presidents in its league office. Kathy Behrens is President of Social Responsibility and Player Programs. Amy Brooks is President of Team Marketing and Business Operations and Chief Innovation Officer. No other league has two women serving as presidents in the league office.

Byron Spruell is President of NBA League Operations. Shareef Abdur-Rahim is President of the NBA G-League. No other league has two coloreds serving as presidents in the league office.

Mark Tatum has served as NBA Assistant Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer since 2014. Upon his appointment, he became the highest-ranking black man in the league office of one of America’s major men’s professional sports.

The best category for female representation is in the NBA League Bureau of Professionals at 43.4%, up 1.4 percentage points from last year. This was the highest percentage since the 2009/10 certificate, when the proportion of women was 43.6%.

The NBA league bureau set a record for people of color for the third consecutive year, with 43.7% of professional staff positions filled by people of color, up 2.1 percentage points from the 41.6 % equals recorded at the end of the 2020-2021 regular season.

“I’ve had numerous conversations with Commissioner Adam Silver and he’s always been open to dialogue about diversity,” said Rev. Jesse Jackson, Founder of Rainbow PUSH and longtime civil rights activist. “I am impressed and encouraged by the strides the NBA continues to make on and off the court, as reflected in Dr. Lapchick’s annual report reflects. Their commitment to social justice especially over the past two years is also significant, giving players the opportunity to protest peacefully against various injustices in our world. At the same time, the NBA has directly expanded diversity and inclusion at the top of its ranks with significant additions to the league office. Several teams have also included women and men of color in leadership positions, and we’re seeing a record number of minority coaches on the sidelines. The league really sets the standard, not just in the sport, but in the business world and our culture as a whole. Kudos to the NBA.”

While there was improvement at the team level, there was plenty of room for improvement beyond the head coach and GM positions. Perhaps the first is the composition of the team governors. The NBA was the first league to change the title of “owners” from teams to “governors” because the term “owners” historically refers to individuals. At the time of this writing, no other leagues have made this change.

There have been four majority governors of color throughout the league. Michael Jordan is the Majority Governor and Chairman of the Charlotte Hornets. Vivek Ranadive, who is from India, is the chairman, CEO and governor of the Sacramento Kings. Joe Tsai, who was born in Taiwan, is Majority Governor and Chairman of the Brooklyn Nets. Moroccan-born Marc Lasry is team governor for the Milwaukee Bucks. This is the third season that four Team Governors of color have run their organizations simultaneously. No other professional league has such representation.

There are three women who are primary team governors. Jeanie Buss is the governor of the controlling team and CEO of the Lakers. Gayle Benson is the senior governor of the New Orleans Pelicans. Jody Allen is the major team governor for the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors, who faced each other in the 2022 NBA Finals, had four governors from minority investors who were people of color. James Cash and Mark Wan own a minority interest in the Celtics, and Chamath Palihapitiya and Brigette Lau own a minority interest in the Warriors.

In the 2021–22 season, 37 men of color and 12 women were governors of minority teams.

The three points for the NBA – on A+ for racist hiring practices, a B+ for gender hiring practices and overall A — were significant increases over the 2021 report card, although we used a higher measurement standard for race because we were transitioning to the 2020 census for the first time. TIDES recognizes that teams are worth billions of dollars today and that the percentage of the population that fits into the billionaire category is not the same as the racial groups represented in the US Census. Nonetheless, these are the criteria we use in the race and sex products.

People of color in team C-suite positions was 26.7% in 2021-2022, up from 24% last year. The proportion of people of color in team vice presidential positions was slightly higher at 26.1%, up from 25.5% in 2020-21. In the Team Senior Management category, the proportion of people of color increased from 31.3% to 32.5%. Not an A grade in sight.

Teams fared much better, increasing significantly from 41.9% to 45.7% in the Team Professional Staff category.

Despite these areas where there is room for growth, I congratulate the NBA on making significant improvements on an already great record of hiring women and people of color for leadership roles. The NBA stands above the other men’s professional sports leagues. While we often read about increased television viewership for the regular season, playoffs, and NBA Finals, it’s also worth noting that the NBA generated a record $10 billion in revenue last season. The game seems more popular than ever and the NBA has re-emerged as a great brand even in the last two years of COVID-19 and the racial bill. A great following, tremendous revenue generation and ethical leadership. Congratulations to Adam Silver and his team.

Richard E. Lapchick is Director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida. He is the author of 17 books and the annual Racial and Gender Report Card and President of the Institute for Sport and Social Justice. He has been a regular commentator for on issues of diversity in sports. Follow him on Twitter @richardlapchick and on Facebook. NBA racial and gender report card shows improvement on an already strong record

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