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NBA commissioner Adam Silver made some news Thursday when he stated that he would be “hugely disappointed” if the NBA didn’t have a female head coach in the league within the next five years. The problem with Silver’s assertion is that it undercuts one of the main justifications critics make when complaining about the lack of black coaches.
Silver made the statement on Bonnie Bernstein’s podcast. His comments reminded me of the argument that gets made about needing more black head coaches in professional sports.
You’ll hear the contention more in the NFL, where three of the 32 head coaches are African-American.
Because of that statistic, you get articles like this one from The Washington Post:
“The NFL has only 3 Black head coaches. That needs to change.”
Then, in the sub headline, we get the crux of the argument:
“About 60 percent of the players are Black, but coaching is still dominated by White men,” writes Fred Bowen of the Post.
He is not the first and will not be the last to use this assertion. Interestingly, this logic only applies to jobs that people want.
No one ever says, “Hey, 50% of the people in the world who throw stuff in the garbage are women, so we need more female garbage collectors.”
Here’s a novel concept: hire the best people. Period. Don’t worry about their skin color. Don’t pay attention to their gender. Stop considering how it looks on a spreadsheet.
Media uses same argument about black coaches for every professional sports league
The same claims are made about the NBA. The league actually hired several black head coaches in its past cycle and the percentage was nearly half (43%) of the league. Although, that was before the Ime Udoka suspension.
Here’s what USA Today wrote in an article about the newly hired black head coaches:
“Last season that sentiment did not exist. Just seven Black coaches led teams in a league where 74% of players are Black. ‘These numbers are just disgraceful,’ National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts told USA Today Sports this year. ‘It doesn’t make any sense.'”
Right, so again the argument comes back to the percentage of players of a certain race should dictate the percentage of coaches.
But here’s the problem with that argument: if you use that same logic and apply it to women, there should be ZERO female coaches.
It’s not just black and female coaches, either
NBC News used the same argument about racial dynamics to push for more diversity in front offices, as well.
“In 2021, about 71 percent of the players in the NFL were people of color (that is, a race other than white), while only a quarter were white, according to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida,” NBC News wrote.
“Of 37 general manager positions filled [from 2012-2021], 31 went to white men — that’s about 84 percent. The six others went to men of color.”
So, again, using this logic there should be 0 women in front offices. One-hundred percent of the players in the NFL are men. One-hundred percent of the players in the NBA are men.
The point isn’t to argue that women can’t or shouldn’t hold these positions. The point is to call out the hypocrisy in making these ridiculous arguments.
You can’t, in one breath, say that the coaching staffs and front offices should be more representative of the players, while in the next breath arguing that women — who make up 0% of the player pool — should get more opportunities.
But that’s exactly what these news sources do.
Identity politics always leads to hypocrisy
Take the Washington Post, for example. In the same month (the same MONTH) the previously quoted article was posted (September, 2022), this piece was also published:
“It might surprise people to know how long women have coached football.”
OK, what’s the problem there? We’re just going to get a history lesson. No, it wouldn’t be a WaPo article without some identity politics.
“That’s why the fact that women are now coaching in the NFL is critically important,” Katie Taylor, Washington Post, writes.
These women represent the few managing to reach the sport’s pinnacle, despite the large number of women who have come before them. Women have proved they can coach football well, yet their numbers at the professional rank remain small.”
Washington Post: we need more black coaches because the players are black.
Also Washington Post: we need more female coaches even though none of the players are female.
USA Today also argued that we need coaches of color to be more representative of the players.
The publication posted this article earlier in 2022:
“Women coaches for NFL’s Washington and Cleveland teams could change course of football history.”
This was one of my favorite articles. Mostly because it contained this line: “People like me, and others, have maintained for some time that gender is truly irrelevant when it comes to coaching football.”
The great Mike Freeman penned that stellar piece of journalism. Of course, Mike Freeman also wrote this gem of a column: “Colts hiring Jeff Saturday as interim head coach is slap in the face of Black coaches.”
I hope you have a notebook in front of you and are writing all this down. So, gender is irrelevant when it comes to coaching. Skin color, however, is very relevant. Got all that?
There’s an emerging pattern in these articles
NBC Sports, which argued that front offices should reflect player demographics, also wrote this line when the Denver Nuggets hired Sue Bird to their front office:
“NBA teams have hired from too narrow of pools for too long. Teams that consider candidates who wouldn’t usually draw consideration – including women – will be rewarded with better employees.”
Is that an incorrect statement? I’m certainly not saying that. What I am saying, though, is this is the problem with all of these identity politics arguments.
You simply can’t keep up with them. The same logic used for one group gets thrown out the window when the opposite point needs to be made about another group.
People love sports because it’s the ultimate meritocracy. Hell, if you want to keep going down the diversity path, why is 60% of the NFL made up of black men? Don’t we then need to get more Hispanic players? What about more women? More Asian players? More white players?
Of course not. No one is making that argument. We simply want to watch the best compete against one another.
And that should extend to the sideline and front offices.
Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @OutkickDanZ