Over the past few years, diversity in the workplace has become a mainstay issue that all companies have had to rightly address. In sports management, like in other fields, diversity is not as often strived towards as it is spoken about.
Countless studies, and simply the eye test tells us that white males are given benefits in the workplace. For years, this bias flew under the radar, simply ignored by many. However, this problem of diversity has become common everywhere, including in the world of sports management.
A lack of diversity in sports management
Countless examples exist that continue to show this bias in the world of sports. We have Steve Nash, getting the head coach position of the Brooklyn Nets without any coaching experience.
Then, both the offensive coordinators of the two Superbowl teams: Eric Bieniemy of the Chiefs, and Byron Leftwich of the Buccanneers, not being hired as head coaches during this year’s offseason stand as additional examples.
Those are only a few of the many instances where there seems to be an unwritten bias against those of minority descent in the workplaces of the major sports leagues.
However, there are some key people throughout professional sports that have broken through to top positions. And while there is still more work to do with diversity in sports management, these five people deserve their flowers for rising in a system that is made more difficult for them to prosper.
Kim Ng – General Manager of the Miami Marlins
Kim Ng is the best example of someone breaking through a glass ceiling across the entire sports world. Ng has served in countless roles throughout the baseball world starting in 1990.
She has worked with a variety of different teams: Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, and also even the commissioner’s office for Major League Baseball.
It took a while for her to finally be able to break the glass ceiling as there were many a job that she had been passed on, with the likely reason being that she was a female.
Ms. Ng is now the only female in a GM role throughout all of professional sports, but she knows she will not be the last.
Dave Roberts – Head Coach of the LA Dodgers
Roberts is the son of a Japanese mother and African American father. In 2017, he became the first manager of Asian descent to lead his team to the World Series. Roberts was brought on to be the Dodgers head coach in 2016.
He started his career in baseball after playing outfield for 10 years with a variety of teams, and then was hired as a coach for the San Diego Padres before getting his position with the Dodgers.
Roberts has had a very successful career, that is primed to continue with the Dodgers expected to be a great team this year. Already on his resume are World Series births in 2017, 2018, and an ultimate crown in 2020.
Erik Spoelstra – Head Coach of Miami Heat
Spoelstra is of Filipino descent on his mother’s side.
He became the first Asian-American Head Coach in the four major sports in North America when he was hired as the head coach of the Miami Heat in the 2008-2009 season. And soon after, he became the first Asian-American head coach to win an NBA Championship in 2012.
Spoelstra started his time with the Miami Heat back in 2001, where he served as an assistant coach and head of scouting until 2008.
He has since made 5 NBA Finals appearances and has won 2 championships in those years 2012 and 2013.
Jason Wright – President of Washington Football Team
Jason Wright is of African American heritage and was hired last season to be the president of the Washington Football Team. He became the first NFL president of African American heritage.
Touted as a “business wiz,” he has been tasked with turning around a team in turmoil. The team formerly known as the Washington Redskins, a team owned by Daniel Snyder, who has quite a few sexual harassment allegations against him, and a team whose talent is currently not the best.
Masai Ujiri – President of Basketball Operations of the Toronto Raptors
Ujiri is of Nigerian descent and was hired by the Toronto Raptors as President and GM in 2013. He’s had a long career throughout different positions in NBA front offices, which culminated in his current job with the Toronto Raptors.
He has become a coveted front office executive, with the likes of the New York Knicks and also other big-market franchises hoping they could pry him out of Toronto. He won a championship with the Raptors in 2019, which at the current moment has still been the peak of Ujiri’s career.
The first of many in diversity in sports management
These are a few of the select people of minority descent that have broken through the glass ceiling of professional sports.
We can only hope that these few people will be the first, but not last, who continue to get the roles they deserve.