There are 34 CEO or president positions within the NFL. Thirty-three are held by white men.
The seemingly discriminatory trends of the NFL are mirrored in college athletics. In 2014, whites held between 85 and 92 percent of all head coaching positions in both men’s and women’s teams of all three NCAA divisions, according to research done by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES). Ninety-seven percent of NCAA commissioners are white, and they are almost entirely male. There is zero Latino or Asian NCAA executive, senior or vice presidents.
It’s statistics like these that motivate Lizzy Whitbeck to take action. A graduate student within the UCF College of Business Administration’s DeVos Sport Business Management program, Whitbeck was one of the driving forces behind the program’s involvement in this year’s Diversity Week.
“Our main principle is using sports as a platform for social change,” Whitbeck said.
UCF Diversity Week is a campus-wide effort to shed light on and bring an end to systemic forms of discrimination. It took place Oct. 12 through Oct. 16 and featured presentations addressing issues including sexism, racism and religious differences.
Instead of hosting a single seminar, sport management students orchestrated a week-long campaign. Digital screens throughout the College of Business displayed facts about diversity in sports organizations to promote more inclusive hiring practices.
These statistical facts came from research done by TIDES, an organization within DeVos. It researches and publishes studies relating to gender and race in amateur, collegiate and professional sports. In essence, TIDES monitors the presence of pressing ethical issues within the wide world of athletics.
“I’d like to call us barrier breakers in sports, because there are a lot of sport management programs out there. What makes our program unique is our core values and social justice issues within sport,” Whitbeck said. “We instill that mindset into the students here to become business leaders but always have those issues in the back of their minds.”
TIDES is headed by Dr. Richard Lapchick, who also serves as a director of the DeVos college itself. Lapchick has received international recognition for his work as a human rights activist and is often described as “the racial conscience of sport,” according to his UCF bio page. He’s been lauded for his pioneering work toward combating racism, not just in sports but in all types of workplaces.
The list of Lapchick’s accomplishments is as long as his life: In the 1950s, at age 14, he stepped in at a basketball camp to defend a black player against racial slurs. Fifty years later, he received a lifetime achievement award presented by the same player — NBA Hall of Famer and all-time leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Lapchick joined the UCF faculty in 2001, about when the DeVos Sport Business Management program was born. Since then, it has flourished. It was recently ranked by SportBusiness International as the No. 2 program of its kind worldwide, and it has previously received top-five rankings by the Wall Street Journal, ESPN The Magazine and Forbes magazine. Like Whitbeck, Lapchick asserts that the school’s commitment to social change sets it apart from the rest.
“Of the 100 graduate programs in sport management, ours is the only one that embraces diversity and inclusion,” Lapchick said in an email.
The four core values of the program are ethics, diversity, leadership and community, Whitbeck said, adding that the goal is “to put strong, ethical leaders out into the sports industry.”
“I am proud of the DeVos students who have embraced the value of diversity and inclusion as one of the four pillars of the DeVos program,” Lapchick said. “Our students live it, and they did a great job during Diversity Week.”
For more information about the state of diversity in the athletics industry, visit the TIDES website at tidesport.org.
Jennifer Kline is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.