So says a new study released Wednesday that found the NBA had the highest ever percentages of minority vice presidents and league office personnel in men's sports history - 15 and 34 percent, respectively. The study was conducted by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida.
The findings follow a separate report last week from a University of Pennsylvania professor and a Cornell graduate student concluding white referees called fouls against black players at a higher rate than they did against white players.
UCF researcher Richard Lapchick, who specializes in diversity in sports, said his report focuses on the bigger picture: Who's getting top NBA jobs, not whether unconscious racial bias could affect the game.
"Was there validity to the (referee) study? It's hard for me to tell," Lapchick said. "If (the bias) is true, it's more of a reflection of what's going on with society. Decisions made by corporations, decisions judges make."
Pro hoops has received top diversity marks among men's sports in Lapchick's study for the last decade and a half.
Fifteen percent of NBA team vice presidents were minorities, 3 points higher than last year, according to this most recent study that used data from the 2006-07 season. Thirty-four percent of professionals in the league office were minorities, a 2-point climb.
The NBA also has the only black CEOs and presidents in professional sports. The CEOs are Terdema Ussery, Dallas Mavericks; Fred Whitfield, Charlotte Bobcats; Steve Mills, New York Knicks; and Billy King, Philadelphia 76ers. The presidents are Joe Dumars with the Detroit Pistons and Isiah Thomas with the New York Knicks.
About 79 percent of NBA players were minorities. The proportion of black players jumped two points from last year to 75 percent, amounting to 330 players, while Latino players remained constant at 3 percent (13 players). There were 91 white players, slipping a point for the second straight year to 21 percent of the total.
The proportion of white players has hovered just above 20 percent for most of the past 16 seasons Lapchick has studied. It peaked at 28 percent in the 1990-91 season and dropped to a low of 18 percent in 1994-95.
NBA commissioner David Stern "has long felt that a diverse workplace is the only workplace," spokesman Brian McIntyre said. "It's just something we kind of do as a normal way of doing business."
The NBA also had 12 black head coaches, the best in pro sports and 40 percent of the league's total. The league has far more black coaches across its history than any other - 53, compared with 25 for Major League Baseball managers, the second-best total.
According to Lapchick's study, sixty-four percent of the NBA's referees were white, 32 percent black and 3 percent Latino. One of the 59 referees was a woman.
Not all the news in the report was sterling. The percentage of women in the league office dipped for the third straight year, down 2 points to 39 percent overall. Still, the study said it was the highest total in men's pro sports.