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Race and Ethnicity in Head Coaching Positions Essay

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Updated: Feb 14th, 2022

African-American presence in American sports has been increasing for decades, generating a commonly accepted belief that racism is no longer present in the sports industry. The pattern of African-Americans constituting at least half of the number of players on the field, regardless of the game, leads many to a conclusion that modern professional sport is free of discrimination. However, this is not true for all sides of the sports business. As it concerns occupying management roles, racial minorities still make up a fragment of the workforce. This tendency of lack of certain ethnic groups in coaching leads to sports industries actively seeking diverse professionals for administrative jobs. Thus, the growing demand for African-Americans in coaching positions due to the underrepresentation of racial diversity in sports and the cultural incompetence of current coaches can have a positive effect by reinforcing strict policies of inclusion.

Firstly, the extent of the underrepresentation of racial diversity in American sports is one of the most predominant reasons for the industry to seek more African-American coaches. As it concerns the players themselves, Savage and Seebruck (2016) claimed that “57.2 percent of the student-athletes in NCAA DI basketball are black whereas only 29.4 percent are white” (p. 3). This statistic might indicate that racism is no longer an issue. However, when it comes to the coaching positions in sports, the racial dynamic changes to the opposite, with Black coaches sustaining less than a quarter of all the jobs in American sports overall (Rankin-Wright et al., 2016). This drastic discrepancy in the representation of certain ethnic groups calls for a change in a democratic society. The hiring procedure might be the hidden reason for this to happen. Rankin-Wright et al. (2016) stated that recruitment in sports is deficient in the transparency that ensures the fair and race-blind selection procedure. Therefore, many sports associations want to eliminate racial preference in the hiring process to guarantee both equal job opportunities and the absence of discrimination.

Secondly, one of the reasons why African-American coaches are the needed resource in the modern sports industry is to compensate for the cultural incompetence of the white coaches. Given that many racial minorities, particularly African-Americans, enter the field as players, the majority of White coaches fail to support them due to their lack of cultural expertise. Thompson (2018) explored the dynamic between the over-represented Black players in professional sports and similarly predominant White coaches in the managerial roles throughout the industry. He claimed that “without awareness of environmental factors that develop a racial identity, a white intercollegiate coach can further become a function of institutional and environmental discrimination toward students of color on college campuses” (Thompson, 2018, p. 15). White coaching that dominates the college arena and then professional sports only deepens the racial discrimination. More than that, the current sports administration fails to exercise the cultural competence that is required when working with a multi-racial group of people for a more exceptional result. In a competitive setting of professional sports, ethnically incompetent white coaching proves to be less effective, leading to a higher demand for African-Americans in managerial roles.

Given the two reasons above into consideration, it is essential to make sure that racial minorities are included in sports management for positive change through effective policy implementation. One of the policies that are in action today is the Rooney Rule, which obliges the sports associations to consider at least one racial minority applicant in the hiring process for coaching roles (Lamb, 2016). Although this policy resulted in some positive impact on the African-American representation in sports administration, many companies still preferred to pay the fee for ignoring the system (Lamb, 2016). Likewise, some professional sports businesses have been accused of interviewing non-traditional “token” applicants that have not been taken into consideration instead of giving a chance to the legitimate minority applicants (Lamb, 2016, p. 303). These numerous violations of the Rooney Rule have shown that despite the belief that modern sport is free of racial bias, it persists, and the laws need to control it. The advantage of the Rooney Rule has been described by Hylton (2018) as it “ensures some resistance to unconscious bias in the workplace and that the best of everyone rather than the best of a few are considered for recruitment” (p. 35). The positive change can be provoked by introducing a stricter version of the Rooney Rule that will oblige companies to consider more minority applicants during the hiring process with fewer opportunities to circumvent the rules.

In conclusion, coaching positions in modern professional sports lack racial and ethnic diversity, creating a demand for more African-American representatives in managerial positions. The main reason why this need exists is the current over-representation of white professionals that leaves racial minorities outnumbered. More than that, the white majority shows the growing incompetence in training diverse players’ groups, therefore leading to a loss of effectiveness. The need for inclusive, practical professionals in the sports field urges for more African-American coaches on the administrative level. This positive change can be introduced by enforcing a stricter version of policies that require sports associations to interview and consider more than one non-traditional applicant during the hiring process.


Hylton, K. (2018). Contesting race and sport shaming the colour line. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Lamb, C. (2016). From Jack Johnson to Lebron James: Sports, media, and the color line. Paw Prints.

Rankin-Wright, A. J., Hylton, K., & Norman, L. (2016). Off-color landscape: Framing race equality in sport coaching. Sociology of Sport Journal, 33(4), 357–368. Web.

Savage, S. V., & Seebruck, R. (2016). Race, supervisorial change, and job outcomes: Employability resilience in NCAA Division I college basketball coaching. The Sociological Quarterly, 1-22. Web.

Thompson, M. D. (2018). Innovative coaching in intercollegiate athletics: Advocating for cultural responsiveness (Publication No. 1) [Master’s thesis, Oregon State University]. Oregon State University Publishing.

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