Public Release: 

Study finds opportunities limited in professional, Olympic and college sports

Northeastern University

Fewer women, African-Americans in sports contrast with surge of Latinos and international players

BOSTON, Mass. -According to a new report issued by Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society, only the WNBA and the NBA are close to genuine equity when it comes to opportunities for women and people of color in professional and decision-making positions in pro, Olympic and college sports. They had sports' only A's in the category of race.

The Report Card, issued annually by the Center and now in its 12th year, is a comprehensive research document analyzing the hiring practices of women and people of color in the NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball, NHL, Major League Soccer, the WNBA, and the NCAA and its member institutions. This year's version included for the first time the U. S. Olympic Committee and its National Governing Bodies. Grades are based on racial and gender makeup of members of the industry.

In the 2001 Racial & Gender Report Card, when grades for race and gender were combined, the WNBA (A) and NBA (B+) were only leagues above mid-range C averages. No category surveyed received less than a C for race. Only the WNBA had an A for gender, contrasting with Major League Baseball, the NFL and Major League Soccer, which all earned D's in that category.

"As in society itself, we have a long way to go to achieve equality in sport," said Richard Lapchick, founder and director of the Center and lead author of the study. "There was a decline in the influence of women in most sports and organizations covered. This makes it even more striking that the WNBA, a women's league headed up by a woman, had the best record for diversity in sport. The NBA has always had the best record regarding diversity - Its own creation is now a worthy rival."

Lapchick cited the best piece of individual news regarding race. "There are now 20 head coaches or managers of color in the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball," he noted. "This is nearly 45 percent higher than the previous best among the big three sports in past reports. As our most visible off the field position, perhaps this will lead the way to more breakthroughs in other areas of our front offices and athletic departments."   There were also record numbers in both the NBA with ten (34 percent) African-Americans as head coaches and in the 2001 Major League Baseball season with six African-Americans and one Latino manager (23 percent). In the NFL there are currently three (ten percent) African-Americans in this post.

Among this year's other findings: - The internationalization of American sport continues its dramatic rise with an all-time high of international athletes in the NBA (11%), the NHL (30%), Major League Soccer (25%), Major League Baseball (19%) and in the WNBA (27%). This was also true in college sport in general for all Division I for both men and women;
- The percentage of Latinos in Major League Baseball remains at an all time high of 26 percent while continuing to grow in both Major League Soccer and in Division I baseball;
- The WNBA has the best record for both people of color (45 percent) and women (85 percent) as professionals in the league offices. Among the men's leagues, Major League Soccer (26 percent) and the NBA (25 percent) have the best records for people of color. Although the U.S. Olympic Committee staff was well ranked in gender because of a strong staff of professional women (43 percent), its National Governing Bodies has the worst record for race;
- The New York Islanders is the only professional sports team that had people of color as majority owners. In the 2001 NHL season there were two Asian-Americans as co-owners of the New York Islanders, Charles B. Wang and Sanjay Kumar;
- There is still little racial diversity at the CEO position in the five men's pro leagues. In all leagues combined, there are only two African-Americans and two women who hold this important position;
- There are only 11 African-American general managers in the three major men's professional sports; MLS had the only Latino GM in the men's leagues; there are no female GMs in the men's leagues;
- The percentage of women in professional positions declined in the NBA, the MLB and MLS but increased in the WNBA, the NFL, the NHL and the NCAA;
- U.S. colleges continue to provide the fewest opportunities for people of color at the top management level. In Division I, African-Americans make up only 2.4 percent of athletic directors while women hold nine percent;
- The percentage of African-Americans coaching Division I men's basketball increased to 21.6 percent while falling in Division IA football to 4.7 percent, the lowest level since the Racial and Gender Report Card first published results for college sports;
- The trend of decreasing percentages of African-American players in professional and college sport noted in the last Report Card continued in some sports while being notably halted in the NBA and NFL and in Division I Women's Basketball. Despite the widely held perception of the increases in African-Americans in athletics, the data shows otherwise. The percentage of African-American players decreased in Major League Soccer, the WNBA and in college sports for men and women, and is at a record 30-year low in Major League Baseball.

The author of the study is Sport in Society's founder and director, Richard E. Lapchick. Co-author and research director Kevin J. Matthews is the director of Sport in Society's SportsCAP Program at Northeastern University in Boston, Mass.

"As in previous reports, the 2001 data shows that professionals and decision-makers in professional, college and Olympic sports do not nearly reflect the number of players of color competing in the game," Matthews said. "The Center publishes the annual study to indicate areas of improvement, stagnation and regression in the racial and gender composition of professional, Olympic and college sports personnel and to contribute to the improvement of integration in front office college athletics department positions."


Since its inception in 1984, the Center has attracted national attention for its pioneering efforts to ensure the education of athletes from junior high school through the professional ranks. Its mission is to increase awareness of sport and its relation to society, and to develop programs that identify problems, offer solutions, and promote the benefits of sport.

Boston-based Northeastern University, a private research institution, is a world leader in practice-oriented education. Building on its flagship co-operative education program, Northeastern links classroom learning with workplace experience and integrates professional preparation with study in the liberal arts and sciences.

The Racial and Gender Report Card's executive summary and full-text version are available online:

Kevin J. Matthew
Center for the Study of Sport in Society
Northeastern University

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