The NFL’s popularity continues to grow, while its commitment to diversity is not traveling down the same path.
Most of its players are black.
Most of its head and assistant coaches are white.
The NFL offices in New York are much more devoted to diversity than its franchises.
Only two its owners are not white, and its franchises’ front offices are an insult to inclusion.
The NFL 2019 Racial and Gender Report Card, published last week by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida, gave the league an overall B-minus.
Racial hiring received a B and gender hiring barely topped average with a C-plus.
Compared to 2018, the NFL’s score for race tumbled 6.7 percent to 82.3 percent. Its gender hiring score was 76 percent, a two-percentage point increase. The overall grade dipped from 81.6 percent in 2018 to 79.3 percent in 2019.
“People of color and women are seriously under-represented in significant decision-making positions at the team level,” said Richard Lapchick, TIDES director and primary author of the study.
While there are “bright spots,” according to Lapchick, the NFL “has continued to see lower scores within the leadership of participating clubs. There has been a lack of representation of women and people of color in President/CEO and C-Suite positions.”
Starting with the obvious, the NFL received an A-plus in player hiring, with 70 percent of the league’s player being of color.
Racial hiring in Commissioner Roger Goodell’s office received an A-minus, with 28 percent of its employees being of color. Gender hiring in the league office earned a B-minus.
Things get shaky after those scores.
With just 12.5 percent of NFL head coaches being of color, it received a D-plus in that category. Hopefully, the A-plus it earned for a substantial increase in assistant coach hiring will help improve that grade in the near future.
There are only three black head coaches in the NFL, Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins, Anthony Lynn of the Los Angeles Chargers and Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Carolina head coach Ron Rivera is the lone Latino to hold that position.
“The NFL began the 2019 regular season with only four coaches of color which represented an enormous shift from the record of eight coaches that started the regular season in 2018,” said Lapchick.
“That all-time record was also achieved in 2011 and 2017. There were six coaches of color in 2015 and 2016.”
Now come the Fs.
The NFL failed in hiring of general manager/principle executives and gender hiring of front office positions higher than vice president. It received a D-plus in racial hiring of the latter category.
The lack of diversity in team front offices begins at the top.
Only two owners are people of color – and neither is black.
Shad Khan, a Pakistani-born American businessman, is principal owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He would have owned the St. Louis Rams had Stan Kroenke not swooped in and exercised his option to purchase the team.
This move was applauded by most of the region’s sports media when it happened.
Kim Pegula, an Asian American woman, has held a major interest in the Buffalo Bills since 2014. The catch here is that her husband holds the majority interest.
Put the hammer down
Lewis Hamilton finished second in the Emirates U.S. Grand Prix near Austin, Texas last Sunday – but more importantly, he earned his sixth Formula 1 driver’s champion.
Hamilton is one short of the record of seven titles held by Michael Schumacher – and he wants that mark and more.
“I am working on a masterpiece,” Hamilton told BBC News after securing the title.
“I haven't quite finished it yet. I am trying to understand. It takes a long time to master a craft and while I feel like I am mastering it, there is still more to master, still more to add to it, still more pieces of the puzzle to add.”
Hamilton has won 83 Formula 1 races, and also is chasing Schumacher’s record 91. He won 10 races during the 2019 season – with two more to go before the year ends.
Hamilton is recognized as the world’s best auto racing driver – regardless of the type of racing. He is at the top of his game is racing’s most challenging circuit.
But he admits, it has not been an easy road in 2019.
“Every year you go through a different rollercoaster ride of emotions,” he said.
“Each and every single one of us is struggling with something in life. I try to show people that, from the outside, things always look great but it's not always the case.
“I am struggling with lots of different things and battling certain demons.”
One of those “demons” is re-building his relationship with his estranged father. Another is the pressure of being a black man dominating an overwhelmingly white sport.
“There's lots of life after F1 and I want to spend time with my family. I still want to have a family one day. But I love doing what I do so much that I don't think there's a lot that can particularly stop me,” he said.
Hamilton won his first F1 title with McLaren, and has added five with Mercedes. He is under contract with Mercedes through next year – but the lure of Ferrari is there.
Mercedes Racing CEO Toto Wolff said he has broached the subject several times with his championship driver.
“Even within the team we have discussed it, with Lewis we have discussed it and we have agreed on the topic,” Wolff said this summer.
“We had the discussion when we negotiated the last contract and I think that you just have to be open minded and understand that drivers will explore opportunities that exist and benchmark themselves.”
Should Hamilton leave Mercedes behind, Wolf said there would be “no drama.”
Meanwhile, Hamilton is still basking in the glory of another driver’s title.
“It's beyond surreal that my life journey has brought me to this point in winning the sixth title,” he said.
“I don't know how I am supposed to feel right now.”
The Reid Roundup
Had it not been for California passing its bill allowing college athletes to profit from their names and images, the NCAA would never have thought of doing the same. I reached out to state Rep. Steven Roberts on the issue, and I’ll bet the NCAA knew many legislators throughout the shared Roberts’ thoughts. “My first impression is that I would support similar legislation in our state. Given the sacrifices our student athletes make and the millions of dollars paid to coaches, it seems reasonable that they be able to profit off their names and images as well,” Roberts said … Congratulations to Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong for winning the NL Gold Glove. His defensive excellence was vital to his team reaching the postseason … The Missouri Valley Conference extended is conference tournament run in St. Louis through 2025. It needs SIU-Carbondale to get its act together to increase attendance … Boosters raised almost $20 million to buyout Florida State coach Willie Taggart’s contract so he could be fired. That brother had to go. Bob Stoops is reportedly going to replace him … I was ready to defend Taggart – until he refused to meet with his team after he was let go … There were eight MLB managerial openings shortly after the 2019 regular season ended. The San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates still have openings, but no black candidate has been interviewed … Led by Siya Kolisi, the squad’s first black captain, underdog South Africa beat England 32-12 to win the Rugby World Cup. The Springboks’ win set off a multicultural national celebration … Colin Kaepernick spent his 32nd birthday last Sunday handing out backpacks filled with toiletries and essential goods homeless people in Oakland living in a tent city … Washington Nationals closer Sean Doolittle refused to attend his team’s visit to the White House on Monday. “There’s a lot of things, policies that I disagree with, but at the end of the day, it has more to do with the divisive rhetoric and the enabling of conspiracy theories and widening the divide in this country,” he said.
Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and is a New York Times contributor. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and appears monthly on “The Dave Glover Show” on 97.1 Talk.” Find him on Twitter at @aareid1.