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Volume 23 No. 17
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Diversity and inclusion redefined in the wake of police brutality, racial discord

What a time for Sports Business Journal to have its diversity and inclusion issue. Like almost everyone else in the United States, I have been angered by the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. I am transfixed by the massive protests in the United States and across the globe. I am encouraged by the athletes, coaches, teams and leagues that have raised their voices with strong calls for an attack on racism and hate.

Earlier this month in the midst of the turmoil, The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida released as scheduled the College Racial and Gender Report Card. SBJ readers know our work as a result of more than 20 years of publications of the various Racial and Gender Report Cards. 

Publishing the College Report last week seemed so insignificant compared to the lives lost and the divisions in our country. But then we realized that the protests are about unequal treatment of and the lack of opportunities for people of color and women in America, and the report card is the best reflection of that in sport.

Back in the late 1980s, I think the report card was viewed as an annoyance to the world of sport. Most people looked at the playing fields and saw very diverse players. Few were looking beyond the field. The report cards made that impossible to overlook. All these years later, I believe the commissioners and Mark Emmert at the NCAA see diversity as a business imperative. I understand most use the report cards as leverage with their teams/colleges and universities to do better with diversity and inclusion in hiring of women and people of color.

I have been a college professor for 50 years. I chair the DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program in the College of Business at UCF. Any grade below a B is not considered passing. A student is allowed one C to be able to remain in the program. Two of the three grades for college sport were below a B.

Overall, the grades for the professional leagues are raised substantially because of the weight paid to the record of the league offices (and the NCAA office) and player opportunities. As a result, the grade for race has been A+ for the WNBA and NBA, A for Major League Soccer, A- for Major League Baseball, B for the NFL and a C for the D-I FBS schools. The grade for gender, where everyone does worse, was an A for the WNBA, B for the NBA, a C+ for the NFL and college sport, and a C for MLB and MLS. The FBS schools got an F for gender hiring.

However, the persistent focus of the public has rightly been on a few key categories — including head coach, general manager and president. This is where, based on the records of their teams, the leagues do not do as well.  For example, the head coaching grade for the NBA and MLS is an A+ with the leagues having 33.3% and 37.5% coaches of color, respectively. Following these two leagues is the WNBA, which earned an A- with 25% coaches of color. The grades drop for MLB with a B at 16.7% and the NFL with a D+ with 12.5%. That led to much negative uproar at the end of the season and new policies being recently adopted.

The NFL got an F for general manager with 6.3% while MLB got a C- at 13.3%. The NBA (A- at 26.1%), WNBA (A- at 27.3%) and MLS (A+ at 33.3%) all did well.

Only MLS did well for president with a B, while there were scattered Fs for everyone else.

I believe we can expect even greater scrutiny placed on these positions within the next year after everything that has happened recently in terms of racial turmoil. The NFL and the NBA have become proactive on racial issues in society. The WNBA, especially, has always been progressive. Athletes, especially in the WNBA, NBA and NFL, have been active on social justice issues in general. But they have been on the sidelines in terms of advocating for increased opportunities at the coach, general manager and team president levels for people of color. I believe that will change and be an impactful part of going forth. I think the same will be true at the college level. And just as diversity is good for business, I believe real searches will be good for team morale as African American players will feel better about a team that really has open searches even if, in the end, another white man was picked. But with real open searches across the league, more people of color will get the opportunity to lead.

I urge all teams and colleges to really engage with their communities, especially where there are communities of color. Teams and athletes need to listen to youth and invest in their future with treasure and talent. As it always does, sport has the potential to heal divisions and bring communities together.

Richard Lapchick (rlapchick@ucf.edu) is the chair of the University of Central Florida’s DeVos Sport Business Management and is the director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport and the president of the Institute for Sport and Social Justice. Follow him on Twitter @richardlapchick.