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Report finds fewer women being hired in pro sports


Professional sports leagues and college sports generally are doing a decent job when it comes to employing people of color, but the sports world is falling behind in relation to the number of women being hired and retained, according to a recent study.

Yesterday, the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida released its 12th Racial and Gender Report Card, a comprehensive study of the racial and gender makeup of players, coaches and front office or athletic department employees in various professional sports and college sports departments. This year's study looked at the NBA, the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NHL, Major League Soccer and the WNBA, along with college sports.

The report covered the 2001-02 seasons in the NBA and NHL, 2001 for the NFL and 2002 in MLS, the WNBA and baseball. For colleges, the 2000-01 academic year was the study period.

Although the NBA had the best showing of all the men's professional leagues in terms of employment of women and people of color, every professional sport had lower averages for gender from the last study in 2001, said Richard Lapchick, author of the study and the institute director.

The NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball improved their standing on hiring people of color, and college sports improved in the gender category. The WNBA had the best record for gender and the best combined record for race and gender.

On the other side, the NFL had the lowest combined grade of all sports covered, showing declines in employment of women and racial minorities.

Lapchick said the decline in the number of women hired could be because of an appearance that many women are already employed in such organizations, when in reality, they might occupy the lowest positions.

"We've probably reached a point in front offices where there are a few women in executive positions and many women in support positions," Lapchick said. "Then when the men will look around, they'll say there are so many women working there."

The NFL, Major League Baseball and MLS earned the worst rankings for women's employment, with MLS having the worst showing of all leagues studied.

In the NBA, 80 percent of all players were people of color, 28 percent held league office professional staff positions, 48 percent were head coaches and 33 percent were assistant coaches. On the executive level, there were 10 league office vice presidents, six limited partners and three team presidents. Seventeen percent of all general managers were people of color and 19 percent of all team senior administrative posts belonged to racial minorities.

As for women, 13 were league office vice presidents, 15 limited partners as owners, one team president, 29 percent of team senior administrative posts and 48 percent of team professional administrative positions.

NBA spokesman Brian McIntyre said the league does support employment of a diverse work force, but says that goes hand-in-hand with the practice of hiring the best qualified workers.

"We hire the best people possible," he said. "That's what we've done and what we will continue to do."

Shannon Shelton is a reporter for The Orlando Sentinel, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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