The Economics of Inclusion: Inclusion in Sports

By Amber Baird, Winston Powe, Laura Rodney, and Erin Smith

AN I PLAY TOO? HOW only despair. It is more powerful than THE INTEGRATION in breaking down racial OF PROFESSIONAL barriers. It laughs in the face of all SPORTS CHAMPIONED kinds of discrimination.”1 DIVERSITY Mandela’s words align with the history of integration in the United once said: “Sport States. Against the social norms of has the power to the times, a handful of - change the world. thinking coaches, administrators, It has the power to players, and owners in major league inspire. It has the sports tested the common sports power to unite people in a way that adage that winning transcends all. little else does. It speaks to youth in Over several decades, the opportuni- a language they understand. Sport ties these individuals created have can create where once there was translated to significant commercial


1933 NFL unofficially bans black players

1946 Kenny Washington signs contract with the LA Rams (NFL)

Jackie Robinson signs with the Brooklyn Dodgers (MLB) What businesses can learn 1947 from the successes and Harold Hunter and Earl Lloyd sign with the Washington Capitols (NBA) • Nat Clifton 1950 signs with the New York Knicks (NBA) • Chuck Cooper signs with the Boston failures of sports inclusion. Celtics (NBA) • Althea Gibson joins the US Lawn and Tennis Association tournaments 1951 Orestes ”Minnie” Miñoso signs with the Chicago White Sox (MLB)

1953 Willie Thrower plays quarterback for the Chicago Bears (NFL)

1958 Willie O’Ree signs with the Boston Bruins (NHL)

First Paralympic Games held in Rome with 400 athletes from 233 countries success for the sports industry. 1960 They also provided global exposure for athletes of all backgrounds, races, 1962 Buck O’Neil becomes the coach of the Chicago Cubs (MLB) abilities, genders, sexual orientations, and gender identities to challenge 1966 becomes coach of the Boston Celtics (NBA) discrimination and break down stereotypes while driving worldwide economic growth. 1977 Bill Lucas joins the Braves as the first black general (MLB) Before school integration, lunch-counter , and bus 1989 Art Shell becomes head coach of the LA Raiders (NFL) boycotts, major league sports teams added African-American players to their ranks. Kenny Washington 1997 Sheryl Swoopes is the first player signed to the WNBA with the Houston Comets reintegrated the NFL in 1946. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1998 Dirk Graham becomes head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks (NHL) in 1947. Chuck Cooper was the first African-American player drafted by an NBA team (the 2001 Briana Scurry is a founding player of the Atlanta Beat (WUSA*) Boston Celtics) in 1950. And Althea Gibson was the first African American 2003 Robert Johnson purchases the Charlotte Hornets (NBA) to compete at Wimbledon in 1951.2 While there were other players of Denis Hamlet becomes head coach of the Chicago Fire (MLS) color in U.S. professional sports before 2008 this integration, they fell victim to colorism, and players in professional 2012 Shahid Khan buys the Jacksonville Jaguars (NFL) sports could not appear to have any African heritage.3 Following Jackie 2014 Kim Pegula co-purchases the Buffalo Bills (NFL) Robinson, Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Dominican athletes integrated individual teams. Orestes “Minnie” 2015 Becky Hammond becomes a coach for the San Antonio Spurs (NBA) Miñoso integrated the Chicago White Sox in 1951 and Carlos Paula integrated the Washington Senators in 1954; both SOURCES: Bold Business, Baseball Almanac, Bleacher Report, The Undefeated, Black Soccer Membership Association, Blackpast, Briana Scurry, NBA, CNN Money, CBS News, La Vida Baseball, International Paralympic men were Cuban American.4 Committee. *WUSA is the precursor to the National Women’s Soccer League.

FALL 2020 65 Many early pioneers of professional goal was to ensure equal access to States.23 After the end of World War sports integration used their platforms consideration for top positions for II, women’s participation in sports to encourage social change. Some minority candidates. grew; along with that participation, worked with the NAACP and other Why then, after 17 years of the more opportunities opened for women organizations geared Rooney Rule, are only 12.5 percent to compete in professional sports. toward racial equality,5 while others of regular-season games coached Since the 1980s, women’s professional used their platforms to dis- by coaches of color?19 And why is the leagues have emerged for basketball, crimination and challenge the status number of NFL head coaches of color football, soccer, and hockey. quo. From the outspoken advocacy the same (three) as it was in 2003?20 When the WNBA premiered in 1996, of ’s banter with the While it’s impossible to be present it was initially an umbrella league press to the quiet persistence of Curtis for hiring decisions within major for existing teams, but quickly grew Flood’s refusal to be traded to another sports teams, part of this reason is into a professional league of its own. team “as a piece of property,”6 these that the Rooney Rule only applies to In the first year of the WNBA, it was trailblazers transformed their sports, head coaches. The candidate pool for able to draw more than 50 million their leagues, and the perceptions of head coaches is, quite obviously, other viewers on three channels and grew people of color. They also impacted coaching positions. If quality candi- quickly to reach audiences in 167 the bottom line, improved profits, and dates are lacking in assistant coaching countries by 2001.24 increased competition, eventually positions, or if minority candidates Despite the commercial success driving the complete integration of don’t receive the same opportunities to and popularity of the WNBA, player teams in every league throughout the fail as their white counterparts while salaries—even with 2019’s increase— next few decades.7 keeping their jobs, then it becomes sit at about 20 percent of the minimum increasingly difficult to rise through salary of their male counterparts.25 WE’RE MORE THAN JUST PLAYERS—THE IMPACT the ranks and arrive at head coach.19,20 Last year’s number-one draft pick for OF THE ROONEY RULE. Many candidates also report that the WNBA, Jackie Young, will gross While athletes were able to break they feel they are fulfilling a quota, or a little more than $50,000 for this color barriers on the field,8,9,10,11,12 checking the Rooney box,21 meaning season. Her male counterpart, Zion these same advances weren’t translat- exemplary candidates are discouraged Williamson, has an estimated salary ing to the back office. Until the 1960s, and unable to live up to their potential. of just under $10 million.26 Although all coaching positions in the major They could remain permanently the WNBA reports it is a money-losing sports leagues were filled by white stunted within the league, or they league with estimated revenues of $25 men.9,10,13,14,15 Until the 2000s, there may leave entirely. The parallel with million, only 20 percent of that rev- were no team owners of color.16 corporate America is clear: To have the enue goes to the players. The NBA gives Today, across the three biggest sports best team, one must have true equity, players nearly 50 percent of its $7.4 teams, the combined total number from the hiring process through career billion in revenue.27 At a minimum, the of nonwhite head coaches is six. This development. Hiring the best should be NBA redistributes its revenue more includes three in the NBA, two in the the goal, and the best will, organically, equitably and sets an expectation for NFL, and one in MLB.17 The lack of be a diverse team. If this isn’t the case, the WNBA to do the same. representation in sports leadership then the rules of the game aren’t fair Women in corporate America often sparked the creation of the Rooney and must be rewritten. experience advocacy and sponsorship Rule. The NFL adopted the Rooney as a driver to success. The late LA Rule in 2003, and its influence has PLAY LIKE A GIRL—THE GROWTH OF WOMEN’S Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant was spread outside of the league. The rule PROFESSIONAL SPORTS. a champion for women’s sports and states that NFL teams are required Women have competed in college sports helped drive the WNBA’s popularity to interview ethnic minority can- since the 1860s and in Olympic sports in a meaningful way.28 Trailblazers didates for head coaching jobs and, since the 1900 Olympic games in Paris.22 such as Venus and Serena Williams later, for general manager positions. Until 1943, when the All American Girls joined in forcing the There is a similar rule to help drive League started, tennis world to pay equal prize money female diversity in front-office NFL no major professional leagues for to women and men in 2005.29 Andy positions.18 The rule’s fundamental women’s sports existed in the United Murray is an outspoken advocate for


Men Women

NFL FANS | Average Household Income $73K equality, on and off the tennis court.30 Everyone must work together to achieve true equality. True equality isn’t a zero-sum game. Equality helps 53% 47% create broader appeal and attract better players and more fans.


MLS FANS | Average Household Income $84.6K FANS, TOO. The fan base of the five major league sports in America ranges from 30 percent (baseball) to 47 percent 57% 43% (football) female,31 with an average household income of almost $78,000.32 Revenue from licensed sports mer- chandise is projected to reach over $15B in North America by 2023,33 and NHL FANS | Average Household Income $88.4K women will account for a considerable portion of the sales. Major league sports teams have historically not catered to 62% 38% a diverse female audience, meaning that the significant purchasing power of female fans was not fully realized. Until 13 years ago, most fan apparel for women was pink and used a boxy, NBA FANS | Average Household Income $66.4K shorter cut from the men’s version. The mantra “pink it and shrink it” prevailed.34 This meant that a female fan had minimal options if she wanted 65% 35% to wear something team-branded to game day. The lack of options could make her feel like she wasn’t a valued fan, or that her favorite team didn’t MLB FANS | Average Household Income $75.8K view her as worth the investment. Depending on your age, you may know Alyssa Milano as Samantha from “Who’s the Boss?” or Phoebe from 70% 30% “Charmed.” What you may not know is that Milano is a sports fanatic. After declining to purchase a pink jersey at

SOURCES: the shelf, the wrap a Dodgers game in 2007, she launched Touch by Alyssa Milano. Touch makes branded apparel in team colors and fashionable cuts to cater to female fans who wanted options beyond a boxy jersey in pink. The new line of business was inspired: Female-fan apparel is now one of the fastest growing categories in sports apparel. Fanatics,


a sports merchandise company that sells Touch, reported the third year of 20 percent-plus growth in its women’s business in 2018.35 $8M $7.77M IT’S NOT A GAME WITHOUT FANS. Sports is a booming business that relies on new populations to fuel its growth. Mindful inclusion of fans $7M and players alike has allowed this growth to continue as leagues and teams focus on the fan experience. The sports market was worth $73B to the North American economy in 2019, with $6M media rights making up almost $21B34 in North America and $50B globally.36 The disruption of professional sports, a global and universal pastime, by COVID-19 highlights what a big $5M role sports—professional or not—play in our culture. Through January and $4.51M February, some leagues continued to hold soccer matches with fans wearing masks. As the virus spread, others, such as Inter Milan, held matches $4M without fans and with minimal staff, keeping huge stadiums nearly empty. By the end of February, most global soccer games were canceled. Initially, $2.91M American professional leagues were $3M $2.78M hesitant to cancel games, as their counterparts had done weeks before in Europe and Asia. Then, NBA player Rudy Gorbert tested positive for COVID-19, prompting the NBA to $2M suspend its season on March 11, and the NCAA canceled March Madness the next day. Several other professional leagues followed suit all over the world, and the International Olympic $1M Committee postponed some qualify- ing matches and, finally, canceled this year’s summer Olympics. The financial $380K

implications are massive, but they also $130K $47K $45K $24K created an opportunity to evolve the fan experience. NBA MLB NFL NHL MLS WNBA Avg. NWSL Avg. US (est.) Min. Wage

SOURCES: Statista, AP News, ProBasketballTalk, NPR 68 THE JABIAN JOURNAL To maintain business and revenue of other people who keep players safe are huge, rich entities, but not every streams, sports leagues and teams and sane during the year. Many of person involved is equally wealthy. It’s are adding and enhancing viewing these people are employed by players, crucial for corporations to be inclusive methods (streaming), playing to our teams, professional leagues, or the of everyone involved in their business, collective nostalgia (broadcasting past media and are salaried employees who because every employee plays a vital games), engaging fans in new ways will still be paid, even though games part in the customer experience. (e-sports), and adjusting how content aren’t being played. However, a large is created (NFL at-home draft).36 group of people who support the sports RAINBOW LACES AREN’T ENOUGH—NEW While these innovations were in community aren’t directly employed FRONTIERS IN SPORTS INCLUSION. response to the restrictions posed by by teams or players: the food service Sports continue to be vital in pushing the coronavirus, they opened the door and support staff of stadiums.38 These boundaries and social norms through to better accommodations for fans employees make games more enjoyable representation, and the LGBTQ+ who might not have been able to attend for fans by selling food, beverages, and community should be no different. games in person even before the onset merchandise, and by keeping facilities As Patrick Hanley, policy & advocacy of the pandemic. Streamed content safe and clean. Without them, imagine associate for Resource Center, an can be accessed for much less than the sitting through nine innings without LGBTQ+ advocacy and community price of a ticket, and recorded content snacks, beer, and clean restrooms. center, puts it: “If you want to be can be easily translated and captioned. As contract or hourly workers, these the hometown team, you can’t Better accessibility can bring more employees will disproportionately feel just represent one sector of the fans to the game, even as it brings the the economic strain of halted games. population. You have to be the team game directly to such fans. Many (rich) players and (richer) teams for everyone.” Beyond the morality of have stepped up to help fill the gap inclusion, the LGBTQ+ community has WHO WANTS A HOTDOG? A CRISIS IMPACTS caused by empty stadiums. While nearly $4T42 in buying power globally, EVERYONE IN SPORTS, BUT NOT EQUALLY their actions are heartwarming, it and $1T in the US alone.43 There is The closing of stadiums and cancel- only further highlights the inequality a direct economic advantage to the lation of games due to COVID-19 has between the salaries commanded by social benefit true inclusion brings impacted tens of thousands of people:37 players25,39,40 and the average minimum for this community, as shown by the players, owners, television and media wages available to hourly American prevalence of LGBTQ+ “pride nights” personalities, lawyers, and a variety workers.41 Sports leagues and teams sponsored by teams across profes- sional sports. As LGBTQ+ athletes break barriers on the field, they also advance our discussions and understanding of identity. Student and professional athletes have forced schools and athletic commissions to address difficult questions of fair play and inclusion when it comes to transgender and intersex athletes. Due to the binary nature of the way that professional leagues and SPORTS LEAGUES AND TEAMS ARE HUGE, RICH ENTITIES, BUT NOT EVERY Olympic sports are organized, it is difficult for anyone who doesn’t PERSON INVOLVED IS EQUALLY WEALTHY. IT’S CRUCIAL FOR CORPORATIONS TO identify as a cisgender (gender BE INCLUSIVE OF EVERYONE INVOLVED IN THEIR BUSINESS, BECAUSE EVERY assigned at birth) male or female. Even those who do identify as cis- EMPLOYEE PLAYS A VITAL PART IN THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE. gender male or female are sometimes


changing. Media exposure of athletes with physical impairments is increas- ing and assistive technologies are constantly improving, providing more options for adaptive athletes. This improvement in accessibility enables new lines of business via adaptive leagues. Demand for and popularity of accessible sports have spiked, wit- nessed by a threefold increase in ticket scrutinized based on stereotypes economics and equality go hand in requests at the Paralympic Games disguised as societal norms. hand, have been active in pushing between London 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Since 2009, middle distance runner back against discriminatory bills in (now 2021).48 This inclusion opens Caster Semenya’s performance has multiple states.46 up new customers in the athletes been scrutinized and she has been themselves, and in the fans who buy exposed to a battery of physical exams WE GOT NEXT! ACCOMMODATING MOBILITY, tickets, content, and merchandise. and blood tests in the interest of HEARING, AND VISION IMPAIRMENT IN GAME “verifying” her gender and policing PLAY AND SPECTATORSHIP. SPORTS MIRRORS THE REAL WORLD BECAUSE the level of testosterone she naturally Sports play a huge role in our feelings SPORTS IS THE REAL WORLD. produces.44 Semenya drew attention of belonging in society. Whether we’re Sports has played a pivotal role in the when opponents complained that watching or playing, humans seem societal evolution of perceptions of she was “too fast” to be a woman to naturally align with teams. We race, ability, gender, sexual orienta- when they lost to her in competition. socialize around competition and form tion, and gender identity. Sports Ironically, two of the gold medals pieces of our identities around school teams and leagues have grown and Semenya holds are the result of and professional teams. As mentioned prospered by pushing the boundaries opponents who were disqualified in the Spring 2020 issue of The Jabian of social acceptance and welcoming in for doping. Nevertheless, she identi- Journal, “Economics of Inclusion: new players who bring more dollars, fies as a woman, contends that she The Bottom Line Is Built on Inclusive through sponsorships, advertise- was born female and has subjected Technolog y,”47 some accommodations ments, and direct spending. Because of herself willingly to repeated testing are key to ensuring that those with its need to constantly evolve, sports is and endured the humiliation that goes mobility challenges and sight or hear- a living business case for how inclu- along with it to prove that she should ing impairment can fully participate. sion can positively impact a company be allowed to compete in women’s Applying that concept to sports, not and an industry, and the financial events. But every athlete is not only should we enable participation as challenges that result from resisting afforded the same recourse. spectators, but we should include and the move toward equality. In March 2020, Idaho’s governor encourage people to play and compete, signed two bills limiting the rights of using technology and equipment Amber Baird transgender women and men in his adaptation to enable full participation [email protected] state. One bill prohibits a change of in game play. gender on birth certificates while the While athletes are often perceived Winston Powe other prevents transgender girls as strong, fast, exceptional, or even [email protected] from competing as girls or women physically superior to the average in sports.45 Combined, these bills person, the truth is that anyone can be Laura Rodney effectively limit the definition of an athlete. Unfortunately, perceptions [email protected] gender to biological sex and force and stereotypes can crowd people transgender girls out of competitive out or make some feel like they are Erin Smith sports, possibly taking them out of excluded from competition, especially [email protected] the talent pool and fan base forever. those with physical impairments. Corporations, illustrating that Fortunately, these perceptions are

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