Wednesday, October 8, 2014

If Silicon Valley is pressured to hire more blacks and women, should the NFL be pressured to hire more Asians and women?

If Silicon Valley is pressured to hire more blacks and women, should the NFL be pressured to hire more Asians and women?:

Race/Gender Share of US Population, 2013 Share of NFL Players, 2013
Blacks 13.2% 67.3%
Whites 62.6% 31.0%
Hispanics 17.1% 0.6%
Asians 5.3% 0.7%
Females 50.80% 0%
Based on the data in the chart above, what letter grade (A through F) would you assign for the “racial and gender hiring practices” of the National Football League (NFL)? When determining your grade, you would obviously consider the fact that the racial and gender shares of professional football players diverge significantly from the racial and gender makeup of the US population. Shouldn’t we apply the same diversity standards to the NFL that have been used recently to evaluate the racial and gender hiring practices of Silicon Valley companies like Microsoft, Apple, Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter.

For example, blacks were 13.2% of the US population in 2013, but were significantly overrepresented in the NFL with a 67.3% player share in the 2013-2014 season. Whites are 62.6% of the US population, but were significantly underrepresented in the NFL with only a 31% share of players. Likewise, Hispanics and Asians have almost no representation in the NFL (0.6% and 0.7% respectively) compared to their shares of the US population of 17.1% and 5.3%. And women, who make up 50.8% of the US population, but have no representation in the NFL.

To summarize, whites are significantly underrepresented in the NFL by a factor of 2 times, Hispanics are significantly underrepresented by a factor of 28.5 times, Asians are significantly underrepresented by a factor of 7.5 times, blacks are significantly overrepresented by a factor of 5 times, and women are not represented at all. In other words, the NFL players “look nothing like America.” Therefore using the typical “any gender or racial disparity uncovers discrimination and needs to be corrected” standard, as it’s universally applied to Silicon Valley employment, STEM degrees and careers, corporate boards, etc., I would have to assign a letter grade of F to the NFL for its complete lack of diversity relative to the racial and gender shares of America.

But when it comes to professional sports leagues, an apparently much different standard of diversity is applied. According to the “2014 Racial and Gender Report Card: National Football League” (recently released by the The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport – TIDES – at the University of Central Florida) the NFL actually gets a letter grade of A+ for its “racial and gender hiring practices” during the 2013-2014 season. The NFL got the highest grade possible despite the significant statistical over-representation of black NFL players and significant statistical under-representation of white, Hispanic and Asian NFL players, and no female NFL players (data in the table above come from this TIDES report).

This seems pretty Orwellian in the sense that “all racial and gender groups are equal and important for purposes of diversity, but some groups are apparently more equal than others.” For example, when women are underrepresented in STEM fields, the “disparity-proves-discrimination” standard is applied, and resources and support are mobilized to address the gender disparity. But when women are overrepresented in earning college degrees (140 females per 100 men), or 7 out of 11 graduate degrees, or outnumber male veterinarians by more than 3:1, those disparities and the “disparity-proves-discrimination” standard is abandoned. Likewise, when whites, Hispanics, Asians, and women are significantly underrepresented in the NFL, the “disparity-proves-discrimination” standard is abandoned by TIDES and the NFL gets a letter grade of A+ for its supposed “diversity.” That seems pretty bizarre.

In its NFL Racial and Gender Report Card, TIDES asks, “Are we playing fair when it comes to sports? Does everyone, regardless of race or gender, have a chance to score a touchdown?” Well, obviously women have no chance at all to score a touchdown in the NFL, so shouldn’t TIDES be advocating greater representation of women in the NFL? Maybe not, but then why does it even ask the question and why does it give the NFL an A+ for its racial and gender hiring practices that currently completely excludes more than half the US population?

Now, maybe TIDES assumes that all races and genders have an equal chance to score a touchdown in the NFL, but it’s just the objective reality that black male athletes outperform white, Hispanic, and Asians male athletes (and women of all races) when it comes to playing football at the extremely competitive professional level. But then why do we not apply that same standard to the competitive labor market for Silicon Valley tech talent when Asians and men are overrepresented at Microsoft, Google and Apple?

Bottom Line: It’s important to point out that if Silicon Valley companies like Microsoft, Google and Apple are pressured or forced to increase their employee shares of minorities like blacks and Hispanics, they would be forced to discriminate against another minority – Asians, especially Asian men. Just like if the NFL was pressured to increase their player shares of Asians or Hispanics, they would be forced to discriminate against black players. To be fair to all minority groups and to all employers, if we’re not going to force or pressure the NFL to hire more whites, Asians, Hispanics and women, we shouldn’t be forcing or pressuring Silicon Valley companies to hire more blacks, Hispanics and women.