Civil Rights

Data: Team Colors

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When President Clinton participated in ESPN's town meeting on race and sports in Houston on April 14, he repeated the widely held perception that professional sports franchises are slow to bring African Americans and Latinos into ownership and management. The president hinted that, if practices didn't change, the heavy hand of civil rights enforcement may someday bear down on franchise owners.

Comparing the racial and ethnic makeups of team rosters to those who operate franchises strongly suggests that discrimination exists. But the way in which government bean counters measure such "imbalances" would actually make front offices seem like stellar examples of compliance with civil rights laws. "Federal affirmative action policies state that the workplace should reflect the percentage of the people in the racial group in the population," notes the most recent "Racial Report Card" prepared by Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society. Using such quotas, sports organizations do fine: Their managers, coaches, and professional staff look a lot like America. It's the rosters that are out of whack.