Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

19 Oct 2005

NFL Ranks Last in Opportunites for Women, Minorities

When I saw this headline, my first thought was, "... even behind the NHL?" Not exactly. The five professional sports leagues in the study included the WNBA, NBA, MLS, MLB, and the NFL. 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." NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said, "We don't spend any time looking at their figures ... We think it's irrelevant and it's purely a publicity gimmick."

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 19 Oct 2005

22 comments, Last at 19 Oct 2005, 11:35pm by mactbone


by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 9:37am

Imagine that!

The NFL doesn't employ women as league officials, head or assistant coaches, general managers, or referees!

And I am shocked to discover that women don't play for the NFL either!


by Adam (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 9:47am

Are the Steelers still the only team that has a woman trainer?

by Adam (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 9:48am

The WNBA hires a lot of women. Who knew?

by Parker (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 9:58am

This study seems incomplete. The Minnesota Vikings recently gave 30 young women an opportunity to earn a little extra cash on a part time basis but I don't see that mentioned at all.

by adwred (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 10:02am

Well what gives? Why is the NFL so bad at offering positions for women? Last time I looked very few women were playing in MLB, NBA, or MLS, yet they all recieved a C or above in gender diversity. Considering the size and wealth of the NFL the teams could be working a lot harder at providing positions for women and of course people of color.

by Parker (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 10:08am

Or they could just hire the people they think will do the best job, regardless of race or gender.

by noahpoah (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 10:27am

Or they could just hire the people they think will do the best job, regardless of race or gender.

Why would they want to do that?

By the way, good point about the Vikings, although you didn't mention that they likely also had to hire out some nautical help of various Minnesotan ethnicities - Norwegian, Swedish, maybe Danish...

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 10:51am


If you honestly believe that some of these good old boys are hiring the best people regardless of their race or gender, I've got some ocean front property in Utah to sell you.

by james (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 10:59am

I love the cries of racism in a league full of millionaires that is 2/3 minority.

He who gets the job done best will lead the pack.

Just like when teams that refused to include minorities on the field started to fall behind in performance, those who are still behind off the field will fall behind in performance as well. Discrimination is its on police force.

Obviously any owner/decision maker who doesnt seek out the best people will do worse than those who are.

The "system" all takes care of itself. Just not in at the drop of a hat. God I hate the racism/gender police.

Noone takes up for the most discriminated group around. Ugly people. I wish I was joking

by MDS (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 11:04am

The thing that really angers me about studies like this is that they trivialize an important issue. Simply adding up the numbers of female and minority employees is a horrible way to go about juding whether women and minorities are getting opportunities. Think about how ridiculous we could make this. China has more than 100 times as many people as the Dominican Republic, but the Dominican Republic has more than 100 times as many professional baseball players as China. Obviously, everyone in a position of power in Major League Baseball is a racist who despises the Chinese and uses his influence to favor Dominicans.

by Drew (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 11:05am

Re #9

I shall start an organization called SUN (Stop Uglism Now).

by Independent George (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 11:10am

Short people, too. Everyone always overlooks us.

by TMK (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 11:16am

james, if you honestly think "the market" brought about an end to blatant racism and sexism in this country, your sense of history is as bad as your sense of capitalization.

There are few systems as closed as professional sports -- the idea being that they demand such a high level of expertise and intimate knowledge that it is something that must be experienced rather than taught. The "old boys network" is maintained because it offers security to the folks who set things up. That it is proving difficult to penetrate is because there is a large number of people that prefer to indulge themselves in a pleasant fantasy that we're not like that anymore. And while it may not be as blatant (after 50 years of fighting for every inch, it better not be), it still exists, mostly because "the market" is still mostly controlled by the descendants and beneficiaries of the old system.

I wonder if 50 years would be "the drop of a hat" if you were on the other side of the gap. And that's being charitable; you could make a case that it should be at least 140 years, but we pretty much p***ed the first 90 away with such self-destructive and market-driven scams as Jim Crow.

The point about 2/3 of the league being minority is ridiculous, since the study talks about management, not players. And if the players are making too much money by your standards, don't buy the league's product.

And if you really want your last statement taken seriously, remember that all the plastic surgery, makeup, and hair product in the world can't hide an ugly heart.

by TMK (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 11:19am

"he who gets the job done best will lead the pack."

Mike Sherman is the best? Oy.

Well, we knew it wasn't Mike Tice.

by Tim (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 11:34am

Actually, TMK, the study does include players.

Third paragraph:

"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."

(emphasis mine)

by Vash (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 11:53am

Short people, too. Everyone always overlooks us.

Terrible joke, George. Just terrible.

by Parker (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 12:26pm

RE: #8

No, I do not. There is no doubt in my mind that, just like everywhere else, there are some people in their jobs that got them based on who they know or how they look or some other criteria that gave them an advantage over a possibly more qualified applicant.

From the article: "The league 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."

This statement makes it difficult to get too worked up about the rest of the article or the study overall. In fact, it's curious that the 'pro sports organizations are on the leading edge of ethnic and gender diversity' angle wasn't taken, since that seems a more interesting take away.

by Drew (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 12:53pm

I must give Aiello credit for giving an honest answer, rather than just spouting what people want to hear. However, without actually seeing the study, I'll reserve judgment.

I will say that, as post #17 points out, this article takes a somewhat odd angle on the story. My personal belief is that, while there is no such thing as a true meritocracy, pro sports are about the closest thing out there. But, as with most news stories, the negative angle is what gets presented.

by james (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 12:54pm


You shouldn't assume which side of the gap I'm on.

The reality is that these owners can do whatever they want with their teams. Its simple rules of economics. Exclusionists are the first to lose. Smart business people are the first to realize this.

If you think of the football knowledge in this country as an aggregate quantity and then consider what percentage of that agregate knowledge resides in the minds of minorities you can see what will happen to owners who continue to exclude.

Without getting too much into it, just find the most successful teams and then look at their hiring processes. You will no doubt began to see a correlation between exclusion of minorities and exclusion from success. The day will come.

A great example is Adolph Rupp at Kentucky in the 60s. Did he want black players? No. Did the best white players want a chance to win? yes. Were they gonna continue attending Kentucky, which by exclusion was stripping them of a chance to win if they didn't change their policies? No. Was Kentucky forced to change to survive? yes. You can also look at Alabama football, etc.

Now fast forward a couple of generations where people are starting to give minority executives a chance. Substitute player for exective and "make money" for win.

See where I'm going with this.
Discrimination is its own policeman. If we are gonna do study's on color and gender then we might as well keep going to ugly, short, poor, fat, etc. The discrimination is just as ugly and harmful, just not as polarizing to discuss. Everyone is discrimanatory so those who are awesome people who only treat retards bad and not blacks need to get off of their high horse.

by johonny (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 1:45pm

I got to agree with you MDS. While it's one way to look at the problem it's certainly not the best way.

by Jim A (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 1:53pm

FYI, the complete study is available at the link on my name. Apparently the NHL was included in previous years' studies and graded higher than the NFL, primarily on the gender issue. Curious comments by Aiello. The study was not done by a fly-by-night group, as intimated. It was headed by Richard Lapchick, probably the preeminient sports sociologist in the nation. The NFL was fawning all over Lapchick's studies showing crime rates were no higher among NFL players than in society. The ESPN story doesn't do this study justice, read the full report if you're interested.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 11:35pm

Quick, how many minorities coach 1-A college football? I'll give you a hint, you don't have to take your shoes off to count them.

The NFL has gotten much better at hiring minorities in the last decade but the league is still not representative of the population at large or the players in the game. Not that it has to be, but it is curious that the first black head coach was hired in 1989 (Art Shell) and there are eight other african americans that have been/are head coaches.

If Dave Wannstedt, Norv Turner and Dennis Erickson can get second chances what does that say about the NFL's Meritocracy?