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Three Leagues, 92 Teams And One Black Principal Owner

The NBA is investigating racist remarks possibly made by Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. After the probe was announced, Deadspin obtained an extended recording of a conversation that has been attributed to Sterling and his girlfriend, V. Stiviano. In it, Stiviano asked, “Do you know that you have a whole team that’s black, that plays for you?” to which Sterling allegedly replied,

I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? … Who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Is there 30 owners, that created the league?

It’s common knowledge that the NBA — like the other two biggest U.S. sports leagues, the NFL and Major League Baseball — has many African-American and Latino players. But off the court and off the field, the racial demographics of the leagues are starkly different.

Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, has collated and published statistics on the demographics of most major sports leagues. In October, Lapchick published data on diversity in the NBA, the NFL and MLB in 2013. We’ve pulled the numbers to show how the diversity of the NBA’s ownership structure differs from that of the players — and from other professional sports leagues’ makeups.

In 2013, 76.3 percent of NBA players were African-American. 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, according to Lapchick’s data).


Likewise, save for one owner (Shahid Khan, the Pakistani-born owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars), the majority owners in the NFL were all white, according to Lapchick. In 2013, about one-third of NFL players were white, and two-thirds were African-American.


And again: Save for one owner (Arturo Moreno of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim), all of MLB’s majority owners were white. Latinos made up almost a third of MLB players — the highest percentage of the three leagues.


One of the more interesting differences among MLB, the NBA and the NFL is their respective head coaches. In MLB and the NFL, close to 90 percent of managers and head coaches were white. The NBA’s top coaches were more diverse. Just over half were white, and 43 percent were African-American.

Mona Chalabi is data editor at the Guardian US, and a columnist at New York Magazine. She was previously a lead news writer for FiveThirtyEight.