Who’s Winning in Diversity in Our National Sports Programs?

As society begins to welcome diversity in many new areas including race relations and same-sex marriage, the trend appears to be making its way into national sports as well. Football, baseball, basketball and hockey, considered the Big Four of U.S. professional sports, have made great strides with diversity not only with players, but also with coaches and administrative personnel. While a lot of progress has been made, there is still a lot of work left to be done.

Examples in Excellence Most Inspiring Coaches of the Last Decade 1

National Football League

Considered to once be a league of “good ol’ boys” when it came to making hiring decisions, the NFL has made great strides in recent years to promote diversity. Not only did it see the first openly gay player, Michael Sam, drafted by the St. Louis Rams within the past year, but it has also seen a growing number of front-office and head coaching positions go to minority candidates. However, despite the Rooney Rule being in place which requires teams with head coaching and front-office openings to interview qualified minority candidates, the league recently received a grade of only C+ from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, largely due to the lack of women employed in front-office positions.

National Basketball Association

While the NFL only scored a C+ for its diversity efforts, the NBA was given an impressive A from the Institute. Known for its willingness to hire minorities for head coaching and front-office jobs, it has also made great strides in making sure women are now included in administrative positions as well. Examples include Jeannie Buss, part-owner and President of the Los Angeles Lakers, and Becky Hammon, the first female assistant coach in league history, currently employed by the San Antonio Spurs. Both these women have proven to be great assets to their team and to the Association in general.


While pro sports appears to be making strides in diversity, the college game is still lagging. According to its most recent statistics, the NCAA disclosed that over 90 percent of high-level administrative positions such as athletic directors, conference administrators, and head coaches were held by Caucasians. Despite having many well-qualified minority candidates, many of whom possess a masters in coaching and athletic administration, the majority of jobs still go to white candidates. As a result of these statistics, the NCAA is in the process of developing new hiring strategies that will promote diversity for future openings.

While change tends to come slowly in many areas of society and communities, in sports more minority candidates than ever before find themselves in high-level positions. A welcome sign that diversity is indeed a growing trend.