As the NBA restart gets underway, players are displaying racial justice messages on their jerseys and playing on a court that features the phrase “Black Lives Matter” — but they’re playing for team owners who are nearly all white.
The lack of diversity among owners needs to change, Hall of Fame player Magic Johnson told Yahoo Finance in a recent interview.
Johnson, a former Los Angeles Lakers star and part-owner of three sports franchises, said professional sports should have “more Black owners,” adding that increased diversity needs to start with current owners helping former players move up the industry’s leadership ranks.
“We play on the field, we play in the arenas, but we haven't been able to go up to the ownership box,” Johnson says. “So I'm hoping that that changes.”
“It has to change with the other owners first,” he adds. “If they say, ‘hey, it's a good idea to have Black ownership,’ that would definitely happen.”
“So the change has to be with them first, and then it would trickle down to us as Black athletes that could move from the field to the ownership box,” Johnson, who recently announced a partnership with CBD company Uncle Bud’s Hemp & CBD, said in an interview with Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer on July 23 in episode of “Yahoo Finance Presents.”
More than 83% of NBA players are people of color but their representation drops to 30% within the league’s coaching ranks, according to a study released by University of Central Florida’s College of Business Administration this year. The report identified four teams led by majority owners who are people of color, which marks an increase from the two such teams UCF found when it conducted the same study five years ago.
Johnson holds a minority stake in three pro sports teams: the Los Angeles Dodgers of Major League Baseball; the Los Angeles Sparks of the Women’s National Basketball Association; and the Los Angeles Football Club of Major League Soccer.
“I'm happy to be one of those owners,” he says. “But we should have more.”
The lack of owners of color plagues other major sports, especially Major League Baseball, which includes 30 teams but only one principal owner of color: Arturo Moreno of the Los Angeles Angels.
The NFL also lacks diversity among its ownership and coaches: there are only four people of color who are head coaches, which makes up just 12.5% of the league, as reported by Yahoo Finance. There are also only two non-white principal owners: Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan and Buffalo Bills co-owner Kim Pegula, CNN found.
In the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, many NBA players joined protests advocating for police reform and racial equality. This week, 22 of the league’s 30 teams will resume games at a carefully monitored campus at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., where the players will live in hotels on site.
The league and its players’ union agreed to let players display racial justice and protest messages on jerseys while in Orlando.
While Johnson said he wants professional sports to improve, he remains a big fan. Unsurprisingly, he’s pulling for his old team to win the NBA championship in Orlando.
“I'm excited about the season getting started,” he says. “It'll give us something to watch and cheer for.”
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