ORLANDO (AP) — The NBA still leads the way in sports diversity.
The NBA was again the only men's professional sports league to receive a combined “A” for race and gender in the annual report released Wednesday by the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.
The league had slight decreases for blacks in front-office positions from last year but is still the best among men's pro sports, according to the study.
“I think that our teams go for the best talent and it's a fact that if you don't have the widest possible pool, including women and minorities, then you're not going to have the best talent. And so for us it's quite natural and we're very proud of our teams and their talent search,” NBA commissioner David Stern said.
The study shows 77 percent of the NBA players were black, 18 percent white, 3 percent Latino, 1 percent Asian and 1 percent “other.” International players, after a steady rise in recent years, stayed steady at 18 percent.
Richard Lapchick, author of the study, said the percentage of international players might deviate slightly in the next few years but has “probably peaked” for now.
Women made up 44 percent of professional employees at the league offices. That increased by one percent from last year, higher than any other men's professional league in any previous study but still below the NBA's high of 49 percent in the 1995-96 season.
There also were 34 women in vice president positions in the league office, an increase of three. And while the league received high marks for gender again, Lapchick said that might be the area the NBA can make the biggest strides.
“I think that the NBA, like the other leagues, has a lot of room for improvement at the senior-level positions of teams for women,” Lapchick said. “But it's still better than every other men's pro league.”
The report is based on information published in official team guides at the beginning of the 2009-10 season.
Dave Czesniuk, director of operations for Northeastern University's Sport in Society, said the NBA consistently gets the highest marks because Stern has made diversity a priority.
“Other leagues should stop looking at this NBA study as a report card, and start looking at it like a best practices manual,” Czesniuk said.
The study shows there were eight black head coaches and one of Asian decent – Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra – at the start of the season, a drop of 10 percent for minorities. There were four black team presidents, a decrease of five, but still more than any other sport.
The report found 36 percent of the professional positions at the league office were occupied by minorities, the highest ever for any major pro sport.
Lapchick also credits the high marks the NBA has received to Stern's presence as commissioner, a post he's held since 1984.
“David, I think, made clear to all of his teams that he just wanted the best people hired,” Lapchick said. “Not only as players, but as front offices, and he started to set a standard in the league offices as to what teams should do.”
AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney in Boston contributed to this story.