The NFL received its best grade ever for its racial hiring practices but is still lagging in including women in its league and team offices, according to this year’s University of Central Florida report on the league.

The 2010 Racial and Gender Report Card by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at UCF gave the NFL an A for its racially diverse hiring and just a C for attention to gender, for a combined grade of B in the report released Wednesday.

The league’s progress in hiring African-American, Hispanic and other minorities finally puts the NFL in the same company with the NBA and Major League Baseball, said study author Richard Lapchick. Studies on those leagues were released earlier this year.

“The NFL is now on par with the NBA, which been there for a long time, and Major League Baseball, which got there a year ago,” said Lapchick, TIDES director. “But in terms of gender, they’re still behind the other major professional sports.”

The report points out that no minority has been a majority owner of an NFL team. Lapchick said he was encouraged the Miami Dolphins added minority limited partners last summer.

Gloria and Emilio Estefan became the first Cuban-American minority owners of an NFL team. Marc Anthony, who is of Puerto Rican descent, bought a small stake in the team and African-American tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams also became limited partners.

“I think it’s something that’s a tone setter for everybody else,” Lapchick said. “I think if other teams did that, it’s going to lead to not a woman inheriting a team, but an African-American or Latino owner buying a team.”

Now in its 18th year, the Racial and Gender Report Card examines hiring practices across professional sports, including players, coaches, team front office and league employees.

“We appreciate Richard Lapchick’s work. His report and comments speak for themselves,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. “We will continue to emphasize the importance of diversity in our hiring practices.”

The NFL got its A for scoring 90.6 for racial hiring, up from 89.2 last year. But the score for hiring women dropped from 71.5 to 69.5 for a combined grade of 80.1 overall.

On the field last year, the percentage of white players dropped 1 percent to 30 percent and the number of African-American players remained at 67 percent.

Teams maintained the balance of black head coaches (six) and general managers (five) from last year. Nine African-Americans hold assistant head coaching positions in the NFL in 2010, including Todd Bowles of the Miami Dolphins.

Nearly a quarter of management positions in the league office were held by minorities. While the number of female vice presidents increased by five to 25 from 2008 to 2009, the league has more work to do in hiring women, Lapchick said. Oakland Raiders CEO Amy Trask is the only female CEO or president in the league.

By contrast, the NBA, the standard bearer for balanced hiring in pro sports — scored 91.5 this year: 93.8 for racially diverse hiring and 89.1 for gender hiring — its highest ever. It was the only one of the three sports to get an A in both race and gender hiring practices.

Among NBA players, 82 percent are minorities, with 77 percent being black. In the league office, 36 percent of the professional positions are held by minorities and 44 percent by women — both categories are up a percentage point from the previous year.

Among NBA head coaches, eight are African-American and one — Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra — is Asian.

Major League Baseball scored a total 87.3 for a B+ from a 92.5 for racially diverse hiring and 82 in gender hiring. This season, 40.2 percent of MLB players are minorities and nine of the sport’s 30 managers are minorities. The league office boasted 32 percent of its staffers were minorities and 39 percent were women.

Lapchick said he believes the results show hiring measures the football and baseball leagues have put in place have worked. In 1999, MLB began requiring a diverse pool of candidates be considered for managerial positions and the number of minority managers grew from three to 10 in a four-year span. In 2002, the NFL implemented its version for head coaches, called the Rooney Rule, and the number of minority head coaches grew to seven from two in four years.

Source: South Florida, NFL scores high in racially diverse hiring, League needs to boost hiring of women, by Sarah Talalay, Sun Sentinel,  6:20 PM EDT, September 29, 2010. Sarah Talalay can be reached at or 954-356-4173.