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What can sports leagues do to break up the old-boy network

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.

Twitter: @klynch49

Kevin Lynch

Kevin Lynch is in his 27th season covering the NFL, the San Francisco 49ers and Bay Area sports. He also is a guest radio host and pregame 49ers host on KNBR-AM San Francisco - the flagship station for the 49ers, San Francisco Giants, and Stanford football and basketball. Working mainly for sfgate.com, the San Francisco Chronicle's web site, Lynch is expanding into sports' biggest questions and hottest debates such as - LBGTQ acceptance, athlete criminality, the ethics of performance-enhancing drugs, marijuana, locker room culture, sports and gender, sports and sex, sports and money, sports and race, sports and social change and many other issues. He has written editorials on LBGTQ resistance in sports for the Chronicle and has appeared on KQED radio, Comcast Sports Bay Area and ESPN's Outside the Lines to talk about a variety of sports topics. He completed a Master's in Sociology at San Jose State in 2015, which included a thesis on LBGtT Resistant Attitudes and Behaviors in Sports.

One Comment

  1. You provide two excellent ideas.
    Like many in other contexts, exposure is important. African American boys and girls (perhaps nominated by teachers) during high school could participate as interns at local pro, semi-pro, university or JuCo athletic front offices. Plant the seed, water it and cultivate it. Remember Junior Achievement? Yeah, like that! Many of these students of color don’t even have dreams of becoming major athletes, but they likely love the sports and would love to direct their passions towards the business and administrative aspects of major and minor sports.
    You mentioned traditionally black colleges – if they don’t do so already, they can develop sports business and administration programs and major courses of study. Those students, undergraduate and graduate, can also be mentored and developed into front office executives via internships and fellowships.
    I would push to recruit varsity athletes at the D.II and D.III and Ivy League schools where there are fewer scholarships and less pressure to win championships and the financial windfalls that result. In those schools there is actually education and development of young men going on – not like what happens in Division I programs.

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