Editor’s Note: Richard Lapchick is a human rights activist, racial equality pioneer, sports expert, scholar and author.
When I began publishing the Racial and Gender Report Cards in 1988, the NBA was by far the best professional sports league for hiring women and people of color. 35 years later, it’s still the best among men’s professional leagues, slightly behind the WNBA, which had its inaugural season in 1997 NBA Race and Gender Report (RGRC), released Tuesday by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida (UCF), the NBA received an A-Plus for racist hiring practices and a B-Plus for gender-biased hiring practices. The NBA earned an overall grade of A.
The NBA received an A-Plus for Racist Hiring Practices with a score of 96.5 (down slightly from 97.0 in 2022) and a B-Plus for Gender-Based Hiring Practices with a score of 86.8 (up from 86.0 in 2022 ). The NBA posted gains in most categories, solidifying its role as a role model for the other men’s leagues. The overall grade was A at 91.6, down slightly from 91.8 on the 2022 NBA report card.
Our team at TIDES analyzed data aggregated by the NBA League Office for the 2023 season.
“Commissioner Adam Silver has been a dear friend and great supporter over the years. We have enjoyed working with him and joining forces with the NBA to advance diversity, opportunity, community engagement and social impact,” said Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder and longtime leader of Rainbow/PUSH after reviewing the testimony. “They have been very keen to improve conditions across the league in their hiring practices, ownership, management and coaching positions. As the report by Dr. According to Lapchick, the NBA paved the way, set the standard and they continue to do a great job.” That’s commendable. I look forward to continuing to be both a fan and a partner in the continued development of the league.”
Jackson, who is retiring as President of Rainbow PUSH, said the organization’s athletic director Joseph Bryant will continue to lead collaborations in education, technology, sports business and career development programs, particularly for at-risk students and HBCUs, to help prepare prepare the next generation for success.
There were 16 head coaches of color in the 2022–23 season, matching the NBA’s record 16 in the 2011–12 season. People of color made up 53.3% of all NBA head coaches. African American made up 50% and Asian 3.3%. There were 13 general managers of color, one more than last year.
The NBA has consistently been a leader in men’s professional sports leagues when it comes to diverse and inclusive attitudes. The League’s progressive commitment to diversity and inclusion and social justice is well established and has significantly reduced disparities in hiring practices.
At team level and in the league office, there was again a positive trend for women. The NBA league office achieved 43.3%, the highest proportion of women in professional personnel positions in more than a decade. The team vice president and team executive level scored 30.0% and 39.3%, respectively.
Danette Leighton, CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation, noted that the NBA has made positive strides toward equity in coaching, front offices and beyond. She said she hopes the league’s advances will encourage all teams, leagues and institutions to review their hiring practices and strive for a future where leadership reflects the diversity of this country and players.
The NBA has launched a second-year NBA-HBCU Fellowship program that offers undergraduate and graduate students from HBCUs career development opportunities in the basketball business. After a rigorous application process, 74 grantees from 29 HBCUs will spend ten weeks working with NBA teams and the league office over the summer. For the first time, all 30 NBA teams are participating in the program. Since its inception, 13 graduates of the scholarship have secured full-time employment or seasonal opportunities within the league.
In the 2022–23 season, 82.5% of players were people of color, a slight decrease of 0.1 percentage point; 70.4% of all NBA players were African American (down 1.5 percentage points). The proportion of white NBA players was 17.5%, a slight increase of 0.1 percentage point.
In addition to milestone hires for head coaches and general managers, the proportion of people of color in team leadership positions was 30.0% in 2022-23, a significant increase from 26.7% last year. The proportion of people of color in team vice presidential positions increased slightly to 26.6%, compared to 26.1% in 2021-22. In the team leaders category, the proportion of people of color increased from 32.5% to 34.6% and remained the same in the team professionals category at 45.7%.
Report highlights include:
• In June 2023, the NBA G League Stockton Kings named Lindsey Harding as their head coach and Anjali Ranadivé as the team’s general manager. It is the first time in NBA G League history that two women will lead a team.
• In January 2023, the NBA hired Sabrina Ellis (Chief People Officer) and Lesley Slaton Brown (Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer) to senior leadership positions.
• The NBA continues to implement significant gender equality initiatives. An example is NBA ASCEND (Access, Support, Coaching, Exposure, Networking and Development), a formalized sponsorship program started in partnership with Korn Ferry. NBA ASCEND matches talented women across the organization with senior sponsors. Targeting older women with a focus on women of color, the initiative aims to foster a culture of sponsorship across the NBA that benefits not only program participants but also underrepresented talent throughout the organization more generally.
• In 2022-23, six women were assistant coaches, down from seven the previous year. Still, it was the fourth-highest number in league history. These women included Jenny Boucek (Indiana), Brittni Donaldson (Atlanta), Lindsey Harding (Sacramento), Sonia Raman (Memphis), Krista Toliver (Dallas), and Teresa Weatherspoon (New Orleans).
• The NBA continued to have 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 Operations and Chief Innovation Officer. No other league has two women serving as presidents in the league office.
• Mark Tatum is the NBA’s Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer. When he was named in 2014, he became the highest-ranked African American in the league of all major American professional sports. Byron Spruell is the President of NBA League Operations. Shareef Abdur-Rahim is the President of the NBA G League. Amadou Gallo Fall is the President of the Basketball Africa League. In no other league do four colored people serve as presidents in the league office.
• In the NBA league office, 44.0% of professional staff positions were filled by people of color, up 0.3 percentage points from 43.7% at the end of the 2021-22 regular season. This was the highest proportion of people of color in these positions ever for the fourth consecutive year.
• Women held 43.34% of all professional positions in the NBA league office, down slightly from 43.4% last year, the highest percentage since the 2009-10 reporting year.
• For the second year in a row, three NBA teams had a woman as majority governor: the Los Angeles Lakers, the New Orleans Pelicans and the Portland Trail Blazers. Additionally, four NBA teams have had a person of color as the majority team governor for the second straight year: the Charlotte Hornets, Sacramento Kings, Brooklyn Nets, and Milwaukee Bucks.
• There have been five black CEOs and/or presidents for NBA teams: Fred Whitfield (Charlotte), Koby Altman (Cleveland), Cynthia Marshall (Dallas), James Jones (Phoenix), and Masai Ujiri (Toronto).
• Seven women have been either presidents or CEOs of NBA franchises: Matina Kolokotronis (Sacramento), Jeanie Buss (Los Angeles Lakers), Gillian Zucker (LA Clippers) and Cynthia Marshall (Dallas), Mel Raines (Indiana) and Gretchen Sheirr (Houston). ) and Cynthia Devine (Toronto).
• At the start of the 2022/23 season, women held 30.0% of team VP positions and 30.7% of team CEO positions.
• At the start of the 2022-23 season, people of color held 26.6% of team vice president positions and 29.9% of team leadership positions.
• At the team level, there has been an increase in people of color and a decrease in women in professional staffing positions. For the second year in a row, during the 2022-23 season, people of color held 45.7% of NBA team pro positions. The proportion of women holding team professional positions fell by 0.5 percentage points, from 34.2% in 2021-22 to 33.7% in 2022-23.
• As of May 1, 2023, 55.8% of NBA umpires were people of color, down 1.9 percentage points from the previous report (57.7%).
• The proportion of women referees was 26.8%, an increase of 7.8 percentage points compared to the 2021-22 season. Today, the NBA has a total of 40 female umpires — more than its all-time high of 36 in the 2020-21 season. It should be noted that as recently as the 2016-17 season, women accounted for only 1.6% of all NBA umpires.
“Leading on any issue requires persistent determination and focus on the goal. It is clear from the 2023 RGRC that the NBA is a leader among men’s professional sports when it comes to commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging,” said Jeff O’Brien, CEO of the Institute for Sport and Social Justice. “They offer a true North direction for promoting diverse and inclusive workplaces. Because of their lived values, they attract the best and brightest. I hope other leagues follow the NBA’s lead.”
I believe the NBA will continue to lead the men’s leagues in expanding inclusive hiring practices that have consistently made the league a model for diversity in men’s professional sports.
Richard E. Lapchick recently retired as 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 is a regular commentator for ESPN.com on diversity issues in sports. Follow him on Twitter @richardlapchick and on Facebook.