Full representation in sports ownership is next barrier to break down

Full representation in sports ownership is next barrier to break down

Derek Jeter got a small piece, but Reggie Jackson was denied.

Magic Johnson got a smaller piece, but Joe Morgan was sent away.

Michael Jordan got a small piece and eventually was approved to have the largest piece of a pie typically unavailable to Black men and women, regardless of wealth or fame.

There are 92 major American sports franchises -- 32 in the NFL, 30 in each the NBA and MLB -- and Jordan is the only African American to achieve majority ownership. Jeter owns four percent of the Marlins, Johnson 2.3 percent of the Dodgers.

Morgan and Jackson each were members of separate groups attempting to buy the A’s before Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann decided to sell to John Fisher and Lew Wolff, who had a 50-year friendship with then-commissioner Bud Selig

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Black athletes, retired and active, are determined to change that. Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, among others, have expressed an interest in sports ownership; Durant last month bought a five-percent share of Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union.

As panelists on “Race In America: A Candid Conversation,” Friday night at 8 on NBC Sports Bay Area, retired players Caron Butler (NBA) and Donte Whitner (NFL) discussed the need for representation beyond the player level. Specifically, ownership and management.

“We get to that point by continuing to shine a light on the problem, right?” Butler says.

“Michael Jordan has done a remarkable job with his stance and his endowment to social injustice, speaking out for the first time,” Butler added. “A lot of said it was a huge joke, but at the same time it was a hell of a point. Michael Jordan don’t speak out on a lot of things, but when he comes to the forefront and gets on the front line and says, ‘Look, this is a problem. This is a real issue,” that should let everyone, all these institutions, these equity firms, and all these people out there know that, look, this is a problem in America.”

Pointing out that money is the biggest impediment to ownership, Whitner implies that some of this is up to the players to fix while also alleging those at the top of the NFL create barriers by engaging in subtle forms of oppression.

“It starts with education,” he says. “There are guys in the NFL and NBA that don’t really understand what public and private equity are, what public markets are and what the private markets are.

“Until we educate the players on what these things actually mean, and they sit down and understand, we’ll be a long way away from there. That’s one of the reasons why you never see the NFLPA and NFL link up and have a private equity event. I don’t think they really want one of the athletes to realize what private equity is, be able to invest in it and then come with enough capital one day to be able to buy one of your teams. We’re a long, long ways from that.”

All Jordan had to do to join the club was, first, become the most globally famous player in the history of his sport and, second, polish his status as a cultural icon to such a shine that he became a billionaire – and, according to Forbes, the richest retired athlete on earth.

If anyone deserved a fat slice of the NBA’s ownership pie, it’s MJ. He is one of 91 (The Green Bay Packers are publicly owned, with more than 300,000 shareholders, including Sir Paul McCartney).

One level below ownership are the executive offices, which are sparsely populated with Black faces. The percentage of Black representation at that level -- president, vice president, general manager, manager, head coach etc. -- is modest in the NBA, abysmal in the NFL and beyond embarrassing in MLB.

Though it takes big dollars to enter the owner’s club, the executive level should be more accessible. But no. Only 6.7 percent of MLB GMs are Black, according to the annual Racial and Gender Report issued by Dr. Richard Lapchick at The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES). In the NFL, with African Americans accounting for nearly 70 percent of the rosters, the GM percentage is at 10 percent.

“These institutions have to be held accountable,” says Butler, a voting advocate and vocal supporter of Black Lives Matter. “You have to talk about it. It has to be, ‘Look, this is the problem. Systemically, this has been the problem.’ And let’s face it: We have brothers out here that are way more qualified that a lot of people that are in those positions.

“So, all they need is the opportunity. And I’m telling you, they’re going to run with it.”

[RELATED: Jackson's anti-Semitic rhetoric shows importantce of Holocaust education]

Among the three sports, the NBA has been the best listener and the most inclusive, increasing from three Black GMs in 2017-18 to nine this week with the official hiring of Calvin Booth by the Denver Nuggets.

The NBA seems to realize best that there are benefits to having management that at least attempts to resemble the makeup of its most valuable assets.

The brutal death of George Floyd started a movement, one in which it is fashionable for white individuals to publicly support long-denied equality for Black people. To be determined is whether it’s a trend, a spasm of humanity or an actual desire for equality and representation at all levels of America’s changing demographics.

T.J. Warren matches Warriors' Steph Curry, Klay Thompson with big game

T.J. Warren matches Warriors' Steph Curry, Klay Thompson with big game

T.J. Warren is the talk of the NBA on Saturday night, and deservedly so. 

The Indiana Pacers guard went off for a career-high 53 points in an important win over the Philadelphia 76ers on a very efficient 20-of-29 shooting from the field, including a career-best nine 3-pointers on 12 attempts. In just over 40 minutes of playing time, he only attempted four free throws and converted all of them.

If that kind of incredible stat line sounds familiar to Warriors fans, it should. Warren became one of three NBA players to score at least 50 points with fewer than five free-throw attempts since 2010.

The other two? Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.

Thompson accomplished the feat most recently of the Splash Brothers, having scored 52 points -- including an NBA record 14 3-pointers -- while going a perfect 2-of-2 from the charity stripe in a 149-124 win over the Chicago Bulls on Oct. 29, 2018. He did all that in less than 27 minutes of action.

Curry has done it as many times as Thompson and Warren combined, and did so within a span of 23 days.

On Feb. 3, 2016, Curry scored 51 points while converting 2-of-3 free-throw attempts in a 134-121 win over the Washington Wizards. Later that month, on the 25th, he scored 51 again with only a single free-throw attempt in a 130-114 win over the Orlando Magic. He was a combined 21-of-30 from 3-point range over those two performances, and played fewer than 36 minutes in each.

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As for Warren's explosion, though, there's likely one team that feels even worse about it than the Sixers. That would be the Phoenix Suns, who essentially gave Warren away for nothing. Actually, it's worse than that.

Last June, the Suns sent Warren and the No. 32 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft to the Pacers in exchange for... wait for it ... cash considerations.


Phoenix traded Warren out of a desire to create cap space, which potentially could be another parallel to Golden State.

The heist the Pacers pulled off is exactly the kind of thing the Warriors hope to do with their giant $17.2 million trade exception.

The Warriors could absorb a huge salary with that exception -- considerably larger than Warren's $10.8 million cap hit this season -- and given the financial hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic, there are going to be several teams looking to unload salary this offseason.

Golden State's finances have been severely impacted by the resulting loss of revenue to be sure, but the Warriors inevitably can withstand it easier than most teams. The franchise was valued at $4.3 billion back in February by Forbes, the fifth-highest in all of professional sports. And with the Splash Brothers, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins and a top-five pick in the 2020 draft, the Warriors have every reason to be relatively aggressive in pursuit of another championship.

[RELATED: Report: Warriors' $17.2M trade exception expires Oct. 24]

Don't be surprised if some unexpected -- and big -- names are moved this offseason. And, if the Warriors are able to capitalize on that environment with the use of their trade exception, they could end up with someone capable of making a Warren-like impact.

Or, if you really want to get greedy -- even more significant than that.

Warriors' Bob Myers praises Andre Iguodala's impact on 2015 title run

Warriors' Bob Myers praises Andre Iguodala's impact on 2015 title run

The Warriors don't win the franchise's first NBA championship in 40 years without the team's unflappable trio of stars in Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Between the red-hot shooting of the Splash Brothers and Green's lockdown defense, the Warriors' dynasty doesn't come close to happening.

But Andre Iguodala's place in Warriors lore can't be forgotten, either. Iguodala joined the Warriors in July 2013 as part of a three-team sign-and-trade with the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz. The swingman -- who joined the Warriors already having been an NBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist -- was a starter in his first season with Golden State under coach Mark Jackson, with 2012 top-10 pick Harrison Barnes relegated to bench duty.

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But after a first-round exit in the 2014 playoffs, Jackson was let go and Steve Kerr was hired as a first-time head coach. Immediately, Kerr wanted to make a major change to the lineup, swapping Barnes and Iguodala to maximize their collective production.

"This is the part of Andre that's so impressive," Warriors general manager Bob Myers told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski on "The Woj Pod." "He says to Steve 'All right, if that's what you think is best for the team.' Not only does he say that, he doesn't then call a reporter off the record and say, 'This is B.S., this guy has never coached a game in his life and he's telling me to come off the bench? And I'm an Olympic champion and I'm an All-Star?' And then goes to practice and mopes, he doesn't do any of that. He authentically says and believes this is best for the team.

"For people to really understand that, I say picture you were the VP in your franchise or organization, you were deserving of the role you had, you had the corner office, and they said, 'Hey John, look you deserve this office, you deserve this title, but we're gonna knock you down to kind of an assistant or director, and by the way, it'll probably be on SportsCenter tonight and just have a good attitude, all right, see you later.' 

"In any event, Andre comes off the bench and it's harder and people interview him after the game and they say, 'Andre how does it feel to come off the bench?' And he says, 'I think this is what's best for the team.' And then the reporter turns off his microphone and says, 'Really, this kinda sucks right, you don't want to do this?' And Andre says, 'No, I will do this.' "

Iguodala accepted his role without complaint and didn't do anything to divide the Warriors' locker room. Not only did Iguodala cede his starting spot to the 22-year-old Barnes, he became the de facto veteran leader for the youthful roster, becoming especially tight with the eventual two-time NBA MVP Curry.

[RELATED: Myers reveals why Warriors aren't actively talking trades]

Golden State made a run through the postseason with Barnes in the starting five, but during the 2015 NBA Finals, Kerr elected to once again switch up the lineup.

"We're down 2-1 in Cleveland to the Cavs," Myers continued. "Steve says, 'Hey, I think I'm gonna start Iguodala.' And I said, 'Well, what do you think you're gonna get out of Harrison? And he said, 'No, I'm gonna start Iguodala for Bogut, we're gonna go small.' So Andre doesn't start all year, doesn't say a word, we're in the Finals and he says, 'Andre, you're gonna start now.' And what does Andre do? He goes out and becomes MVP of the Finals.

"I don't think any of it happens without that specific thing. If Andre doesn't do that and he's frustrated all year, in this day and age, maybe he says, 'I want out of here,' maybe Harrison says, 'I want out of here.' It's holding it together, but it requires everyone."

Iguodala's impact on the Warriors' dynasty can't be understated. The organization showed an emotional tribute video in his first time facing the Warriors with the Miami Heat back in February, and owner Joe Lacob even said in a statement following his trade to the Memphis Grizzlies last summer that he looks forward to Iguodala's No. 9 "hanging in the rafters at Chase Center."