What can the NBA, the NFL, and Major League baseball do about breaking down the structural racism within their sports? The question becomes pertinent after the downfall of racist NBA owner Donald Sterling. Many criticized Sterling in the harshest terms for his racist views, and the NBA banned him from league activities for life.
The action by the NBA seems appropriate, but what about the fact that the league is 76 percent African American, and yet there is only one black owner and only eight black coaches. The overwhelming majority of general managers, assistant general managers, assistant coaches, team presidents, CFO’s are also white, not only in the NBA, but also in the other two sports.
What can these leagues do to shatter glass ceilings?
1. Teach players financial literacy. All three leagues have pamphlets and rookie seminars, where financial advice is given. But it’s not enough. Seventy-eight percent of NFL players file for bankruptcy five years after retirement; 60 percent of NBA players are bankrupt within the same time span, and the bankruptcy rate for baseball players is four times the national average. Possibly, leagues need to instill weekly meetings about finances and set up safe places in which players can invest. Players are often preyed upon by financial scammers, so the leagues should offer more legitimate alternatives. League owners could be mandated to offer safe investments they themselves use. With fewer former players distracted by financial woes, they would become more attractive for professional teams as coaches and administrators. Teams, as well as other businesses, are not likely to hire former players for significant jobs if players can’t manage their own finances. With more financially responsible players, leagues would also be freed from the shame of players AND THEIR FAMILIES, suffering foreclosures and even homelessness.
2. Recruit African American employees. Thousands of people want to work for these leagues every year. Many go to extreme lengths just to get in on the ground floor with their favorite team. With so many fighting for the most menial jobs, leagues don’t have to recruit staff. However, they should look for viable African-American candidates at traditional black colleges or in sports management programs. And, in connection with teaching financial literacy, teams should also groom former players to take positions with the front office after their retirement as athletes.
Do you have other ideas? Let me know with a comment on the site.