Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks interim CEO Cynthia Marshall answers questions from the media as Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban listens during a press conference at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Monday, February 26, 2018. Marshall has been hired by the Mavericks to help clean up after the recent sexual assault scandal in the front office.

It is not surprising that the National Basketball Association is valedictorian of America’s major sports leagues when grading fairness in hiring and diversity practices.

The NBA received an A+ for racial hiring practices and a B+ for gender hiring practices, scoring an overall A, according to an annual study by the University of Central Florida Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport [TIDES].

While the NBA annually tops the NFL, MLB, NHL, and Major League Soccer [MLS], the league improved its overall grade in 2022 because of head coaching hires.

People of color now hold 50% [15] of NBA head coaching positions because seven of eight head coaching vacancies during this past off-season were filled by Black or African American men.

The percentage of people of color among general managers increased from 40% in the 2020-21 season to 50% this past season. As of the beginning of 2021 season, there were 12 general managers of color.

Last season, 82.4% of players were people of color, the most in any professional sports league in the U.S.

The NBA also excels in front office diversity by race and gender.

Women hold 43.4% of the NBA’s professional staff roles, and team vice president and team senior management categories saw respective increases, reaching 30% and 39%.

Four African Americans hold the role of chief executive officer and/or a president for NBA teams. Fred Whitfield (president, vice chairman, Charlotte Hornets), Cynthia Marshall (CEO, Dallas Mavericks), Koby Altman (president of basketball operations, Cleveland Cavaliers) and Masai Ujiri (president and vice chairman, Toronto Raptors).

And there were six women in one of these positions: Matina Kolokotronis (chief operating officer, Sacramento Kings), Jeanie Buss (CEO, Los Angeles Lakers), Gillian Zucker (president of business operations, LA Clippers), Marshall (Dallas), Mel Raines (executive vice president of corporate communications, community engagement and facility operations, Indiana Pacers), and Gretchen Sheirr (president of business operations, Houston Rockets).

Michael Jordan is the only Black majority governor/chair of an NBA franchise, the Charlotte Hornets.

Vivek Ranadive, who is from India, is chair, CEO, and governor of the Sacramento Kings. Joe Tsai, who was born in Taiwan, is the majority governor and chairman of the Brooklyn Nets. Marc Lasry, who was born in Morocco, is a team governor for the Milwaukee Bucks.

There are three women who are primary team governors. Jeanie Buss is the controlling team governor and CEO of the Lakers. Gayle Benson is the principal governor of the New Orleans Pelicans. Jody Allen is the majority team governor of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Richard Lapchick, TIDES director and the study’s main author, said the NBA’s grade improvement and overall score were earned “in spite of the fact that we used a higher standard of measurement for race because we switched to reflect the 2020 census for the first time.

“TIDES recognizes that teams are now worth billions of dollars and that the percentage of the population of that fits into the billionaire category is not the same as the racial groups represented in the U.S. Census. Nonetheless, that is the criteria we are using in the racial and gender report cards.

“In spite of these areas where there is room to grow, I congratulate the NBA on its marked improvements on an already great record for hiring women and people of color in leadership positions. The NBA stands above the other men's professional sports leagues,” Lapchick wrote.

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