What About the Disproportionate Diversity in Pro Sports?

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Responding to Lenika’s piece about the small percentage of Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans in Hollywood, a reader snarks, “Just look at that racist NBA: Whites and Latinos are terribly under-represented”—74.4 percent of the players are Black, 23.3 percent are White, 1.8 percent are Hispanic, and 0.2 percent are Asian. That supposed double standard was echoed in the comments section of Julia Lee’s piece for us today about how Asian Americans are often discouraged by their parents from going into the arts. But this reader makes a key distinction when it comes to professional acting and pro sports:

While there is some subjectivity, who’s hired in the NBA and NFL comes down to beating the clock, scoring, and yardage. Those three things have no opinions nor feelings.

And regarding the hugely disproportionate percentage of Black players in the NBA and NFL, the reader notes, “Those are leagues where the white guys hire all the black guys.” As far as the coaches? Here’s a snapshot of the NFL from The New York Times last year:

Among the league’s hundreds of assistant coaches, 16 percent were members of minority groups in 1991; that proportion increased to 36 percent in 2007 and 29 percent in 2013. [The NFL is] where 67 percent of the players were African-American in 2013, according to data published by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.

This season, five out of the 32 head coaches are Black—or nearly 16 percent, just ahead of the percentage of African Americans nationwide—in addition to just one Hispanic coach. Regarding the NBA, here’s a snapshot from FiveThirtyEight in 2014:

… 43.3 percent of NBA coaches were black compared with just 2 percent of the league’s majority owners (of the NBA’s 49 majority owners, Michael Jordan of the Charlotte Bobcats was the only person of color, according to Lapchick’s data).

With that context in mind, do you have any strong views about diversity in pro sports, or the entertainment industry more generally? Drop us an email. Meanwhile, this reader broadens the debate even further:

What about religious diversity? Do all religious groups receive proportional treatment or are certain groups under or overrepresented? Do evangelical Christians receive adequate representation in the Academy and the Oscars?