David Stern’s NBA Diversity Legacy

Money Vortex

If history is any judge (and it usually is), it would be hard to categorize David Stern’s run with the NBA as much of anything other than a major success story, by most measures. Even on the heels of the Donald Sterling controversies, no one can contest the success of the NBA in hiring minorities and making a good go of it as a business venture.

I would have loved to have heard David Stern’s definition of “Diversity.” There’s some indication of it in his recent comment, “Our business focuses us on diversity because we all work in a sport that was deemed ‘too black’ to thrive and actually even survive.” because “This is a white country, and you have a black sport.” The success of the NBA despite that is seemingly affirming of America’s ‘good side’ and a preponderance of the evidence when it comes to Stern’s tenacity and savvy as a business leader. And yet…

The ‘dark side’ focus of his recent interview with BigThink, however, is troubling in some ways, highlighting the continuing uphill struggle, even for the superwealthy entrepreneur, in creating a successful business using minority employees. After mentioning “diversity,” the rest of the interview focuses on the travails and stalwart battle against racism in the conduct and growth of the NBA business enterprise as “a black sport” throughout Stern’s illustrious tenure.

Importantly, it is the NBA workforce that is mostly black, not “the business” or the owners.

“The fraction of African-Americans shrinks as we move up the management chain; 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…).”

In spite of that, the “black sport” perception may indicate a view of “diversity” that ignores the realities of the NBA and the business of basketball.

Stern has much to be proud about, towering achievements that should be applauded. Still, basketball is a game invented and developed by whites, as is the NBA. With respect to “diversity” and how it’s defined, is it an accurate portrayal, or even the right thing to do, that basketball be characterized as “a black sport?” Could that be David Stern’s real legacy, to have transformed and ensconced basketball, the brainchild of a white Canadian college Phys Ed instructor in Springfield, Massachusetts into a black sport?

If the National Basketball Association (NBA) is measured it by it’s workforce demographic or the perceptions it creates as a piece of Americana, perhaps so. Otherwise, it looks very much the same as the NHL, MLB or NFL.

Can basketball be considered “a black sport,” but at the same time be a sport in which pure talent rules the court? What do you think? Is basketball “a black sport?”



Copyright © 2014 Robert D. Jones – All Rights Reserved


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