SBJ/September 26-October 2, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL finding success in diversity

The NFL recently won solid grades from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, which annually grades sports leagues on their hiring of women and minorities. The report, authored by Richard Lapchick, gave the league a combined B grade, featuring an A for racial hiring though a C for hiring women.

The NFL this year showed an increase of 30 percent in the number of diverse employees in executive-level jobs, according to the study.

In 2010, the NFL hired its first chief diversity officer, Robert Gulliver, who previously handled similar duties with Wells Fargo. SportsBusiness Journal staff writer Daniel Kaplan caught up with Gulliver to chat about diversity and the Lapchick report.


How important is the Lapchick report?

Gulliver
GULLIVER:
It is certainly a data point among other data points we look at …. It is an important acknowledgement of what we are doing.

What are the strategies to promote diversity in hiring?

GULLIVER: We have had some very good success driving the notion of diversity. Certainly in a lockout year we did not do a lot of hiring. We did work with our management team to drive the notion of accountability.

How does the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and front-office positions, affect hiring at the league office?

GULLIVER: We capture the spirit of the Rooney Rule. Whenever we have an open position, we encourage our managers and leaders to collect a diverse slate of candidates.

Why is this important? Why not just have a goal of hiring the best possible person?

GULLIVER: Football certainly is a meritocracy: The best team on the field wins on any given Sunday. And when it comes to the league office hiring practices, we want to make sure we are embracing this as a meritocracy. … [But] it really does connect into who we are as a business. We want to make sure we have a diverse employee population because we have a diverse fan base.

Can you give an example of where diverse hiring led to improved business for the league?

GULLIVER: The best example is our effort in the women’s apparel space. Forty-four percent of our fans are women, and we have had quite a bit of success coming up with a women’s apparel strategy — and that is a result of having a diverse employee population.

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