A diversity report found the NBA continues to lead men’s professional sports in racial and gender hiring practices, fueled by more general managers and assistant coaches of color in the league.
Wednesday’s report card from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at Central Florida assigned an overall B-plus grade, with an A for racial hiring and a B for gender hiring. The report annually examines positions for franchises as well as in league leadership, with this edition using data from early in the 2020-21 season.
The overall and racial-hiring grades were down slightly from last season (A-minus and A-plus respectively), while numerical scores in all three major categories fell slightly. Institute director and lead report author Richard Lapchick noted that decrease was due largely to a change in methodology that includes team ownership for the first time, which he expects will lead to drops for every league.
“In the broadest possible sweep, the NBA is the model men’s league in terms of racial- and gender-hiring practices, as well as I think social-justice initiatives,” Lapchick said in an interview with The Associated Press.
The report highlighted racial-hiring gains with general managers and assistant coaches to all-time high levels.
There were 12 general managers of color early in the season, up from seven to start the previous year, to earn an A-plus with the 2020 hiring of Chicago’s Marc Eversley, Denver’s Calvin Booth, Detroit’s Troy Weaver and Houston’s Rafael Stone.
There was also the addition of Minnesota’s Gersson Rosas, the first Latino to lead an NBA front office. Rosas was hired as president of basketball operations in May 2019 but had previously been listed under the category for team presidents/chief executive officers.
In addition, people of color made up 52.7% of assistant coaches for an A-plus, marking the first time that figure surpassed 50%.
The league earned an A for racial hiring with head coaches. And that was before a hiring cycle that saw people of color fill seven of eight positions since the start of the season, pushing the league-wide total to 15 – one shy of the league record from the 2011-12 season.
The report points to a prominent example of success with Phoenix’s sudden rise to reach the NBA Finals. That came under coach Monty Williams and general manager James Jones, who became the league’s second Black coach/GM duo to reach the Finals.
“The GMs and the head coaches in particular are the faces of the franchise usually, unless there’s a superstar player that would balance that,” Lapchick said. “Still, in terms of people that are running the organization, it’s those two positions.
“And since five out of the seven Black coaches hired came out of the assistant ranks this year, the fact that those assistant ranks are going up is a good sign for the future as well as the current situation.”
There were also gains in gender hiring, with women making up 37.9% of team senior management positions (a B grade) and 42% at the league office (an A-minus). But women lagged in team vice presidents (27.8%, C-minus) and C-suite positions (26.4%, D-plus) – a term that refers to executive-level managers such as chief financial officers. This was the first year that TIDES evaluated C-suite positions in a separate category.
Overall, the league earned an A-plus for diversity initiatives.
Oris Stuart, a league executive vice president, told the AP the league remains focused on “continuous improvement” in diversity hiring even with long-running good grades from TIDES.
“We don’t do the work we do because of how it might show up in the report, but we appreciate that the report reflects how important this is to us,” said Stuart, the league’s chief people and inclusion officer.
“We truly believe at our core … that having a diverse set of people, individuals with a wide range of backgrounds and experience just makes us a better organization. It makes us perform better in all aspects of our operations. It allows us to make better decisions about our very diverse set of fans. And it’s fair. It’s more fair for those people who want to help grow the game.”
The study is the second from TIDES for the 2020-21 season or 2021 season, following Major League Baseball in April. Reports will follow for the WNBA, Major League Soccer, the NFL and college sports.