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NBA execs admit that league needs to improve on diversity in front offices

It’s hard to argue with the success of the NBA after this season’s record-breaking teams and legendary retirements. But two men have pointed out that this success might be masking other issues prevalent throughout the league.

In November, Howard Beck, a reporter for Bleacher Report, pointed out that the league’s number of black coaches had shrunk to its smallest number in over a decade. The topic was brought up again by The Undefeated’s Marc. J Spears this week, as he pointed out that the front offices of all 30 NBA teams include a grand total of one black president and three black general managers. In an athletic arena where a large majority of the league’s players are black, Spears said that this statistic is problematic.

Spears took to the time to speak to deputy commissioner and chief operating officer Mark Tatum and senior vice president and chief diversity inclusion officer Oris Stuart, two black NBA executives who are concerned with solving the racial discrepancies in the front office culture of the league.

Tatum told Spears:

“Our teams are always looking for an edge. They’re always looking for who is the best person for the job. I will always tell you that they are searching for different backgrounds, for different experiences, for a diverse pool of candidates to make sure they identify the appropriate candidates to make sure they identify the appropriate person. But of course, we are not where we want to be as a league.”

Stuart pointed to the NFL’s Rooney Rule as an example of how a league could use its power to bring more inclusion into the workplace at the top of the food chain in a major athletic league. The Rooney Rule requires all teams to interview at least one minority candidate whenever they are filling a coaching or executive position. The NBA does not have a similar policy, and does not plan to impose one.

Stuart argued:

“We celebrate the fact that the NFL has implemented that before. But with us, we have to do something that will work for our unique situation. Focus on culture that we believe will create a sustainable outcome, one that is not based on just a process or that kind of oversight.

We are going to get to the bottom of where there are gaps and where there are barriers. It’s about a culture of inclusion that will ultimately start a sustainable process that is going to really address that issue.”

One project that hopes to achieve this goal is the league’s associates program, which aims to prepare former players to transition into coaching and executive positions. Stuart also said that the league is looking towards other organizations that are not connected to athletics to see what has been effective in bringing more minorities into high-ranking positions of power and leadership.

Tatum added:

“I want to make sure that the organization and the collective teams are always taking into consideration the best pool of candidates. “If you can do the job, you will get the opportunity to do that job.”

Hopefully in the years to come the NBA does in fact grow in diversity.

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