NFL earns lowest grades, WNBA earns highest in study

Updated: October 18, 2005, 7:28 PM ET
Associated Press

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.

Diversity in Sports
League Overall Grade Race Gender
WNBA A A A
NBA B+ A B
Colleges B B- B+
MLS B- C+ B
MLB C+ B+ C
NFL C/C+ B D+

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.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press