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The Color Barrier to the Ownership Box

By: *Christopher King

Blog Topic: Minorities in the Corporate World

The Color Barrier to the Ownership Box

There are 122 teams across the four major sports (32 NFL teams, 30 MLB teams, 30 NBA teams, and 30 NHL teams), but only one has an African American majority owner; the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats, owned by Michael Jordan;[1]  yes, that Michael Jordan![2]

In 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, becoming the first African American player at the top level of professional sports in America.[3]   It was not, however, until December of 2002, when Robert Johnson was awarded the NBA’s new Charlotte franchise that the ownership ranks of the four major sports came to include an African American majority owner for the first time.[4]  In 2010, Johnson sold his controlling interest in the team to current owner, Michael Jordan.[5]

While Jordan remains the only African American majority owner of a major sports team, there are three other professional teams whose controlling interest is owned by a member of a minority group.  In the MLB, Arte Moreno, who is Mexican American, has been the majority owner of the Los Angeles Anaheim Angels since May of 2003.[6]   The New York Islanders of the NHL have been majority owned by Charles Wang since 2004.[7]   Wang was born in Shanghai, China and immigrated to the United States with his family at the age of eight.[8]  At the beginning of 2012, the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL was purchased by Shahid Khan, a Pakistani-born American.[9]   That’s a grand total of four teams, one in each of the four major sports with a majority owner who is member of a minority group.

The percentage of majority owners who are persons of color pales in comparison to the percentage of the players in those sports who are persons of color.  According to the latest data compiled by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, at the start of the 2012 season, the total percentage of players of color in the MLB was 38.2 percent, including 8.8 percent who were African American.[10]   In the NFL, the total percentage of players of color was 72 percent, with 67 percent of all NFL players being African American.[11]   The NBA continued to have the most racially diverse group of players of the major professional sports.  People of color represented 82 percent of all players in the NBA, and 78 percent of all players were African American.[12]   Statistics were unavailable for players in the NHL.

It is evident that while minorities are leading the way in terms of numbers on the playing field, there is still a long way to go in terms of equality in the ownership box.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.

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*Christopher King is a member of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. To learn more about Christopher  click here to visit his page.
[1] Jordan Purchase of Bobcats Approved, ESPN (March 17, 2010, 11:13 PM), http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=5003048.
[2] Bobcats Executive Staff Bios, Michael Jordan, NBA.COM, http://www.nba.com/bobcats/executive-bios (last visited Mar. 23, 2013).
[3] Jackie Robinson Breaks Color Barrier, HISTORY, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/jackie-robinson-breaks-color-barrier (last visited Mar. 23, 2013).
[4] Johnson to be Named Owner of Expansion Charlotte Club, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (Dec. 17, 2002, 8:56 PM), http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/basketball/news/2002/12/17/johnson_charlotte_ap/.
[5] MJ to Buy Controlling Stake in Bobcats, ESPN (Feb. 27, 2010, 11:20 AM), http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=4951410.
[6] Mark Saxson, Arte Moreno a Reluctant Pioneer, ESPN (Jan. 16, 2012 12:24 PM), http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/mlb/story/_/page/losangelesmlk/los-angeles-angels-arte-moreno-reluctant-pioneer.
[7] Brain Stubits, NHL Rumors: Charles Wang Looking to Sell Islanders, CBSSPORTS (Feb. 17, 2013), http://www.cbssports.com/nhl/blog/eye-on-hockey/21721586/nhl-rumors-charles-wang-looking-to-sell-islanders.
[8] Anthony Bianco et al., Software’s Tough Guy, BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK (Mar. 6, 2000), http://www.businessweek.com/2000/00_10/b3671001.htm.
[9] Brian Soloman, Shahid Khan: The New Face of the NFL and the American Dream, FORBES (Sept. 5, 2012), http://www.forbes.com/sites/briansolomon/2012/09/05/shahid-khan-the-new-face-of-the-nfl-and-the-american-dream/.
[10] RICHARD LAPCHICK ET AL., THE 2012 RACIAL AND GENDER REPORT CARD: MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL 3, (Univ. Cent. Fla. Inst. for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, 2012), available at http://www.tidesport.org/RGRC/2012/2012%20MLB%20RGRC.pdf
[11] RICHARD LAPCHICK ET AL., THE 2012 RACIAL AND GENDER REPORT CARD: NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE 4, (Univ. Cent. Fla. Inst. for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, 2012), available at http://www.tidesport.org/RGRC/2012/2012%20NFL%20RGRC.pdf.
[12] RICHARD LAPCHICK ET AL., THE 2012 RACIAL AND GENDER REPORT CARD: NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION 2, (Univ. Cent. Fla. Inst. for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, 2012), available at http://www.tidesport.org/RGRC/2012/2012_NBA_RGRC[1].pdf

 

 

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