NBA Leads The Leagues For Sports Diversity and Inclusion

The Racial and Gender Report Card (RGRC) is the definitive assessment of hiring practices of women and people of color in most of the leading professional and amateur sports and sporting organizations in the United States.

The report considers the composition – assessed by racial and gender makeup – of players, coaches and front office/athletic department employees in our country’s leading sports organizations, including the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), Major League Soccer (MLS) and the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), as well as in collegiate athletics departments.

For the past few years, the NBA has scored higher than the other major sports leagues, mostly due to executing diversity and inclusion best practices than the others.

Step 1: Leadership Commitment: A Strong Commitment from the Chief Executive Officer.

“I think there is a unique role that we can play in society, a position that sports has often played. We are part of the psyche of our country, the world for that matter, and I recognize that when we went off the air last Wednesday night it was a larger decision than just the NBA.” — Adam Silver, NBA commissioner

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said this to Rachel Nichols, host of ESPN’s The Jump, on March 18, a week after announcing the suspension of league play because of safety concerns over the emerging coronavirus pandemic. This same sentiment can be applied to the current state of social unrest sweeping the nation in the past few months after the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. The NBA again is playing a leading role as the league prepares to resume play during both a global pandemic and a racial reckoning going on around the country and across the globe.

Through all this stress and uncertainty, Silver has made decisions that take into consideration the well-being of players and the status of the NBA. In addition, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, has gone so far as to give his own sign of approval for the “bubble” campus concept in Orlando, Florida, where NBA games restarted in late July 2020.

Step 2: Initial Assessment, Interviews and Leadership Development

  • Back in 2016, the NBA looked at itself and saw some stunning and troubling diversity statistics. Although the league is widely held as the current trailblazer for diversity among the professional and college sports, 75 percent of its players are black and only one team president and three general managers are.
  • While the NBA cannot force teams to hire or interview anyone, the league has two African-Americans in Mark Tatum and Oris Stuart leading the charge to get more minorities considered for executive positions. Tatum became the NBA’s Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer. Stuart became the NBA’s Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer.
  • Tatum and Stuart embarked on a mission to assess the current state of D&I, the desired future state of the League’s D&I and went about closing the performance gap. The highlights of their strategy and initiatives received media coverage and praise.

Step 3.  Communicate to the Entire Organization About its D&I Vision

Chief Executive spoke with Stuart about being in the limelight as a professional sports league and how that impacts the NBA’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

NBA Remains At Forefront Of Sports’ Diversity and Inclusion Efforts

“The NBA has found a way to continue to lead the way when it comes to diverse and inclusive hiring amongst men’s professional sports leagues,” Richard Lapchick, Director of UCF’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, wrote in his report.

Although its 2020 season was plagued by the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA has maintained its reputation as one of sports more diverse organizations.

  • Despite seeing slight dips, the NBA still received an A+ for its racial hiring practices, a B for gender hiring practices and an overall grade of A-.
  • With its A+ mark in racial hiring, the NBA experienced rises in categories like assistant coaches of color, people of color in the league office, and players. Dating back to November 1, 2019, 45.8% of the league’s assistant coaches were people of color, indicating a 3.3% bump from the 2018-2019 campaign.
  • At the league office, 39.4% of professional staff positions were held by people of color – the highest-ever percentage of people of color in these positions.
  • As of July 22, 83.1% of the NBA’s players were people of color – a 1.2% rise from the 2019 Report Card.

NBA hires ‘Chief People and Inclusion Officer’ to Oversee Diversity Issues

Effective August 15, 2020 the NBA elevated Oris Stuart to ‘Chief People and Inclusion Officer’ to oversee both diversity and inclusion and HR issues, a newly created administrative position.

Stuart became responsible for leading the 30-team league’s combined Human Resources and Diversity and Inclusion groups, an NBA statement said. He will also “oversee diversity and inclusion strategies for the NBA” while helping to “attract, retain, develop and engage diverse talent.”

10 Steps in ILG’s D&I Strategic Consulting Process

Inclusive Leaders Group also follows best practices in diversity and inclusion strategic planning when supporting our clients:

  1. Identify purpose of the Inclusion & Diversity planning process
  2. Establish guiding principles (how will you approach the process?)
  3. Build a process structure (leadership & committees)
  4. Vet framework models (literature review, institutional examples)
  5. Develop a communication and engagement strategy
  6. Define a timeline and manage expectations (backwards design)
  7. Establish objectives, goals, action steps, primary stewards, and checkpoint targets
  8. Identify measurable indicators for each goal
  9. Develop a buy-in strategy and accountability mechanism
  10. Market your successes and your areas for improvement

If your organization seeks to leverage diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) throughout your talent lifecycle to drive engagement, innovation and profitable growth, Inclusive Leaders Group (ILG) has innovative and effective solutions that can help you accomplish it.

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