On Sunday, February 1st, millions of football fans watched the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks compete in Super Bowl XLIX. At the end of the day, the victorious coach got a Gatorade bath in celebration of winning the most coveted prize in the sports world.
Lost amid the action on the field, funny commercials and entertaining halftime performances is the fact that the maestro of this sports extravaganza, the NFL, is one of the weakest symbols for inclusion in the entire sports world.
• Despite the fact that African Americans make up nearly 67% of the players in the NFL, there is not one single African American owner of a NFL team.
• Pakistani-born businessman Shahid Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars is the league’s first and only nonwhite majority owner.
• Only 28% of the management positions in the league office belong to people of color.
• Of the 29 NFL team managers, only 7 of them are people of color.
• Of the 32 head coaches only 5 are people of color.
• For the quarterback position, only 17% of African Americans play this important role.
• Of the 32 punters, only 1 African American can be found in this group.
The numbers were even bleaker for women despite being a key portion of the NFL fan base.
• Women only hold 19% of team senior administrative positions.
• Among team vice presidents, women held a paltry 15% of these posts.
The NFL gets even lower marks for inclusion from the first citizens of our country as the league continues to support and subsidize teams in Washington, DC and Kansas City, MO that objectify American Indians with offensive team mascots, logos and team descriptions.
We have to give the NFL some credit for penalizing a player’s team 15 yards if he is heard using the N-Word during a game. Yet they refuse to take a stand on the name of the Washington, DC football team considered one of the worst racial slurs you can utter against an American Indian.
Let’s not get started on the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson domestic violence and child abuse incidents which cast doubt on whether the NFL understands its most important and impressionable sets of customers-women and children.
Pinch me but don’t we live in post-racial society. We have elected an African-American president for two straight terms. Women can not only serve in the military but in combat as well. 5 states have populations where people of color outnumber white people in Hawaii, California, New Mexico, Texas and the District of Columbia. 37 states, 15 tribes and 17 countries recognize same sex marriage.
The inclusion transition train has left the station. Did the NFL not get the memo?
The bigger question remains. What motivates millions of well meaning, law abiding fans to obsessively follow an institution so imbedded with bias?
Enough of this doomsday chatter. At the end of 4th quarter, the only things that matter are your favorite beverage, another plate of chicken wings and your beloved team on the winning end of the scoreboard. If by chance your team happens to fall short of victory just remember the real loser at the Super Bowl this year will not be the Seahawks or the Patriots. The real loser is inclusion.