The Major Leagues

The Major Leagues

For the last 30 years, professional sports have been dominated by African American athletes. Now there are a growing number of people of color behind the scenes, where owners, general managers, and coaches call the shots and control the economics, according to the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics, which publishes annual report cards that evaluate the minority hiring practices of major sports leagues.

In 2005, the NBA had the highest percentage of black coaches in pro sports history (37%), and seven black general managers — more than in any other men’s pro league. Many prominent African Americans own or partially own NBA teams, including BET founder Bob Johnson, who owns the Charlotte Bobcats.

In 2005, 13% of managers in Major League Baseball were black (compared with 10% in 2004) and the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings welcomed Reggie Fowler as a minority shareholder.

Richard Lapchick, the Institute’s founder and director, says the NBA has always been ahead in diversity hiring practices but other leagues have had to implement special rules.

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig instituted such changes in 2000. The NFL followed suit in 2002 after attorneys Cyrus Mehri and the late Johnnie Cochran documented the lack of black coaches in pro football. From the mounting pressure came the Rooney Rule, which requires NFL teams to interview minority candidates for coaching positions.

The Institute’s report cards, which have been published for the past 14 years, cite that there is still room for improvement in the number of black MLB general managers and team ownership across all leagues.