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NFL earns lowest grades, WNBA earns highest in study

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The NFL ranked last in a study comparing
opportunities for women and minorities in five professional sports
leagues, and the WNBA was the only league to earn top marks.

The NBA, Major League Baseball and the MLS all showed
improvement, but women's basketball received the only A overall in
the report card released Tuesday by the University of Central
Florida.

The study examined the front office, support staff, playing and
coaching opportunities for women and minorities in professional
football, basketball, baseball and soccer, along with colleges.

"There's been a general improvement in the leagues over a
period of time," said researcher Richard Lapchick. "I think the
glaring gaps are at the college level at what are considered to be
the top positions."

Lapchick said all 11 Division I-A conference commissioners were
white and just three out of 117 coaches in the division were black.

Though minority players made up about three-quarters of NBA and
NFL rosters, only the NBA, which has three black presidents and
CEOs, was awarded an A for race among men's leagues. Baseball
maintained its B+ for race, but colleges and soccer slipped slightly
overall.

The grades were calculated by comparing percentages of
minorities and women in the country to percentages on teams and in
sports management.

Leagues employing at least 24 percent minorities were given an A
in race, while those with 9 percent received a C -- the lowest
awarded. An A in gender meant at least 40 percent of women employed
in a given category, with D's awarded for 25 percent and F's for
anything below.

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, which completed
the study, noted that even leagues with low grades generally had
better records in diversity than the country at large.

The NFL scored a C/C+ for combined race and gender numbers, the
worst among all surveyed. Despite earning a B in race, football
scored lowest on gender (D+), with no female league officials, head
or assistant coaches or principals in charge of a pro team.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league doesn't see any value
in the report and didn't contribute figures for its compilation.
Instead, researchers said they used media guides from each
individual team.

"We don't spend any time looking at their figures," Aiello
said. "We think it's irrelevant and it's purely a publicity
gimmick. There are more women and minorities working in the NFL
than ever, and diversity in our workplace is an important league
priority."

For the second time since 2001, the WNBA received an A in both
race and gender, and scored higher than all men's leagues for
minorities in league office, assistant coaching staff, team
presidents and general managers.

"It's nice to have an idea of where you stand in the
marketplace," said Brian McIntyre, spokesman for the NBA and WNBA.

However, a gender gap continued in men's leagues and colleges,
with women claiming just over 41 percent of head coaching jobs for
women's NCAA teams across all sports.

Despite good overall numbers for minorities, the NBA received
failing grades for having too few minority vice presidents and team
administrators.

Major League Soccer turned in top gender percentages for senior
and professional administration after receiving an F last year,
posting a B overall.