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WNBA Leads in Sports Diversity Study



The WNBA still leads the way in sports diversity, even after one of its marquee franchises folded.


The league received an A-plus Thursday for the second consecutive year in an annual diversity report card on race and gender. The WNBA is the only professional league to have received a perfect grade.


The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport study, run by Dr. Richard Lapchick of the University of Central Florida, rates leagues and college sports on the number of participating women and minorities.


The study reported a 10 percent increase in the number of Black general managers in the WNBA and a slight increase in Black head coaches. Women also gained ground, with 10 percent increases in the number of head coaches and team presidents, and a slight increase in the number of general managers.


Lapchick said the WNBA has long led the way in his diversity and gender studies. The league began play in 1997, about the same time the NBA began its diversity initiative.


“The WNBA remained as the best employer overall for women and people of color in sport,” Lapchick said. “They have set the standard for sport with their combined A-plus grade. Taken with the NBA’s overall A grade, basketball has again swept the table for best practices for hiring from a diverse pool of candidates.”


The league lost one of its original teams in the offseason when the Houston Comets, who won the first four championships, folded after new ownership couldn’t be found.

The economy has also forced teams to reduce roster sizes and coaching staffs, but WNBA president Donna Orender has pointed to recent increases in attendance, TV ratings, jersey and merchandise sales and Web traffic as a sign the league remains healthy.


Orender remains the only female president of a professional sports league.

The WNBA still does not have any nonwhite majority owners, although four women have majority ownership: Carla Christofferson and Katherine Goodman own the Los Angeles Sparks, and Colleen J. Maloof and Adrienne Maloof-Nassif own the Sacramento Monarchs.


Sheila Johnson remains the only Black woman to hold any ownership in a WNBA team, with about 6 percent of Lincoln Holdings, the ownership group of the Washington Mystics.


Of the WNBA’s 13 teams, six began the season with female head coaches: Lin Dunn of the Indiana Fever, Pat Coyle of the New York Liberty, Marynell Meadors of the Atlanta Dream, Jennifer Gillom of the Minnesota Lynx, Julie Plank of the Mystics and Jenny Boucek of the Monarchs. Boucek was fired this season and replaced by general manager John Whisenant.


Five head coaches were Black: Gillom, Michael Cooper of the Sparks, the Chicago Sky’s Steven Key, Corey Gaines of the Phoenix Mercury and Rick Mahorn of the Detroit Shock.

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A New Track: Fostering Diversity and Equity in Athletics
American sport has always served as a platform for resistance and has been measured and critiqued by how it responds in critical moments of racial and social crises.
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A New Track: Fostering Diversity and Equity in Athletics