Not long ago, the National Football League’s problem with racism centered around black quarterbacks, black coaches and black personnel being overlooked for positions that many believed they earned.  But that has changed since Colin Kaepernick took a knee, bringing an age-old argument on white supremacy and true democracy to the fore to be witnessed by an ignorant, disgruntled and befuddled population.

However, even though the thunder has been somewhat stolen from the continued mission to make the NFL more diverse, that mission is still one that needs constant revisiting.  To that end, Dr. Richard Lapchick of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport recently released the 2017 Racial and Gender Report Card of the National Football League. 

Though the combined NFL grade was a B, there are still many areas that saw a drop off from previous reports, and other areas still that require major improvement.  

The score on race was 90.7 percent, representing a 0.4 percent decrease from last year’s score of 91.1. The gender score was 74 percent, down from 76 percent last year.   Dr. Lapchick says the decreased scores are indicative of America’s constantly changing demographics.

“The NFL had significant gains for people of color as head coaches and general managers, the two positions most closely watched in the report card," Lapchick said. "The decline in the overall gender grade this year is largely due to the change in the standards of grading. The number of women in significant decision making positions in the league office continued to grow. However, at the team level they are still poorly represented at the senior positions. The good news on the teams is that women hit an all time high in professional positions.

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The number of women at the management level in the League Office increased to 35.4 percent in 2017 from 31.6 percent in 2016.  The percent of management-level employees described in the report as “diverse” increased 1.5 percent to 28.4 percent, earning the NFL League Office an A for racial hiring practices.  Lapchik credits NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Executive VP for Human Resources and Chief Diversity Officer Robert Gulliver for the positive increases.

“The NFL has tied its all-time high of eight coaches of color in 2017 and that is very good news," he said. "There had been considerable concern among NFL officials and advocates for increased head coaching opportunities for people of color or several years going back to 2014 when there were only five people of color in head coaching positions.  There were six coaches of color in 2015 and 2016.  The all time record was eight coaches of color in 2011 and now has been reached again.”

There was also an increase in General Managers who represented an ethnic or racial minority. However, Dr. Lapchick believes the teams are too slow to follow the lead that the NFL League Offices have blazed in terms of hiring more women.

“I am concerned that the percentages decreased for women and people of color on NFL teams at the vice-president level and in senior administrator positions. Teams need to follow the example set by the League Offices, as percentages for women at the team level remain significantly below those at the league level.

For more information about T.I.D.E.S. or to review Dr. Lapchick’s other studies log onto tidesport.org