The WNBA received the highest marks for race and gender recruitment

Editor’s note: Richard Lapchick is a human rights activist, racial equality pioneer, sports expert, scholar and author.

The return of Brittney Griner from Russia may be the best sports news of the year. Seeing him behind bars in Russia, being used as a pawn through the steadily declining relations between the US and Russia, was disheartening. Glad to see his home is safe.

Whether she finally returns to play for the Phoenix Mercury, Griner will forever be part of the WNBA family who loved and supported her throughout her 294 days in captivity in Russia. The WNBA and its players continue to set the standard for how professional leagues should operate — using their platform to raise awareness of social issues, using their voice to promote equality, and amplifying the voices of the underrepresented.

Much of that work has been supported through the league’s longstanding history of racial and gender hiring practices. According to The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), the WNBA has held the top spot in race and gender report cards since its inaugural season. This year, the WNBA received a combined grade of A with an A+ for race and an A for gender, according to the 2022 WNBA race and gender report cards released Wednesday by TIDES at the University of Central Florida.

The WNBA sets the standard for strong and inclusive representation across its organization in terms of players, coaches, staff and administration. This is the 18th year in a row that the WNBA has received at least an A for overall race, sex, and grades combined.

In addition to a record on recruiting practices, the WNBA has an impressive package of diversity and inclusion and social justice initiatives.

Among the WNBA’s most notable increases is the percentage of female head coaches which increased by 16.6 percentage points, from 41.7% in 2021 to 58.3% in 2022. This is the first time since the 2010 WNBA season that women have filled more than half of the seats. . head coaching position in the WNBA. Half of the head coaches are African Americans.

Perhaps more so, the highest percentage of women in any category are team presidents. That’s impressive and bodes well for the future. At 75%, it is the best so far of any league covered by the Racial and Gender Report Cards.

Players of color make up 81.1% of the WNBA; 70.3% are African Americans.

At the league office, the percentage of people of color is 41.8% in 2022 while 69.4% are women.

The WNBA has by far the best percentage of team governors (called “owners” in all leagues other than the WNBA and NBA), with 33.3% women and 33.3% people of color.

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, after reading the WNBA’s report card, shared with me: “Women, as always, lead the way! I have been so impressed by the WNBA’s ongoing impact both on and off the court. Their incredible involvement The familiarity with social justice over the past few years has been impactful and inspiring. Whenever an issue arises that perpetuates injustice and demoralization, the WNBA stand tall, hand in hand, united in one powerful voice. They have advocated so strongly for the cause of women, even helping us # SayHerName in memory of the tragic death of Breonna Taylor and others.

“It’s no surprise…that the league continues to make authentic inclusion and diversity a true priority. Their numbers continue to rise, setting the standard for all professional leagues to know that the question is not a talent deficit, but a deficit of opportunities. Kudos to the women for showing the way to we!”

There are many new social justice and diversity and inclusion initiatives.

WNBA players wore custom Juneteenth warm-up shirts, were educated on Juneteenth history on and social channels, and moderated conversations with Elizabeth Williams of the Atlanta Dream about the day’s significance.

In May 2022, DC’s Mystics Assist Program merged with Ward 8’s College Track to create a pathway for kids in Ward 8 to enter college. For every help Mystics players made during the 2022 season, a monetary donation was donated to College Track Ward 8, providing underprivileged students with opportunities to pursue higher education.

The League strongly promoted civic engagement. Together with the team and WNBPA, they are working together ahead of the 2022 midterm elections to further promote the work players focus on by empowering communities through voter registration and suffrage education and advocacy. Leagues and teams collaborated to select nonprofits in each market related to voting in each team’s local communities and donated more than $165,000 spread across 12 selected nonprofits.

As part of its commitment to economic inclusion, the Business-to-Business (B2B) Program was created to help the WNBA and NBA identify women, minority-owned businesses and a variety of other businesses among their suppliers. It builds on Answering the Call (ATC), launched in October 2020, to further diversify the WNBA and NBA licensing portfolios. ATC allows minority owned businesses to obtain WNBA/NBA licenses, unlocking a series of benefits and league assets for each new licensee.

Starting in June 2022, the WNBA and US Bank are working with Project Destined to launch “She’s Invested: Supporting Emerging Female Leaders.” It became the first all-women mentorship program for the organization. The program provides financial guidance and education to women of color from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other public universities.

Other initiatives address food insecurity, LGBTQIA+ advocacy, fighting anti-Asian hatred, health and well-being, and gender equality. In 2022, the WNBA held extensive activities to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX.

The WNBA’s outstanding initiative saw it honored with the 2022 League Humanitarian Leadership Award at ESPYS 2022. As part of the Sports Humanitarian Awards, the leadership award recognizes professional sports leagues that use their platforms and resources to make a difference.

ESPN notes that “The WNBA has gone beyond the game of basketball by working with local communities, fighting for equality, and promoting health equality, LGBTQ+ representation, and criminal justice reform.”

I salute WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert, WNBPA executive director Terri Jackson, and the PA leadership including third term president Nneka Ogwumike, first vice president Layshia Clarendon, vice president Chiney Ogwumike and vice president Sue Bird, among others.

While their fan base has continued to grow, the WNBA have reached the highest levels of various recruiting practices and continue to influence their community. And Brittney is home!

Richard E. Lapchick is Director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida, is the author of 17 books and the annual Racial and Gender Report Card and president of the Institute for Sport and Social Justice. He has been a regular commentator for on diversity issues in sports. Follow him on Twitter @richardlapchick and on Facebook.

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