This time it just felt different.
When the horrifying video of George Floyd’s last moments circulated throughout the world, protesters acted with a sense of urgency and rigor that we haven’t seen since Eric Garner’s murder. Already we have seen the power of applying pressure to those in control and, as a result, the people’s voices have been amplified and heard (so far).
As we celebrate this progress, the fight must continue on.
If the point of the movement against systemic racism is to get rid of the “bad apples” that exist in our society, that starts with excavating the ground and tearing out the roots in which that poisoned fruit was created.
The sports institutions you support, from Little League to the pros, need to be included in the conversation around racial and gender equity since they contribute to this ongoing problem.
Out of the 22 athletic directors in the high school conferences we cover, only one of them is female. In terms of race, 18 of those in that position are white (there is one AD whose race I could not confirm).
According to its database, 86 percent of NCAA coaches at the Division-I level in 2019 were male while 79 percent were white. In leagues that are over 70 percent black, three of the NFL’s 32 head coaches and seven of the NBA’s head coaches are black. In a league dominated by white players, six of the MLB’s managers are non-white while 24 are white.
This cannot be categorized as a mere pattern. This is what systemic racism looks like in the sports world.
At the high school level, the solution to this doesn’t necessarily mean ripping current head coaches out the positions they currently hold. However, there needs to be an emphasis on diversity when head coaching and administration roles become vacant.
Think about how many hours your children spend participating in high school athletics. Depending on the sport, they probably practice two to three hours a day after school with his/her head coach. This is a time in which their character and views are being shaped and molded by the authority figures they look up to.
If most of those coaches and administrators are white or male or both (go through your school’s athletic staff and you will find this consistency), they aren’t going to be able to relate to the experiences of those who don’t benefit from the same privilege as they do on a daily basis.
To be clear, I am not demonizing the coaches that occupy these positions. There are many who tirelessly work to make sure they can check themselves at the door and are open to discussing these issues that have long hindered the growth of diversity in their programs.
But there has to be some form of accountability for those who make the decisions on new coaching and administration hires in the realm of high school sports. Statements around diversity and inclusion are empty when neither fully exist in athletic programs run by one specific demographic of people.
If you are looking to build off of the progress that we are inching towards as a country, take this energy and stay vigilant the next time there is an opening of a position that you feel should be filled by a minority hire. Because like we have seen in the last 14 days, cacophonous calls for change can only start to annoy the powers that be when the first cry is matched by others that follow it.