Twenty-three years ago the WNBA proclaimed, “We got next.”
On Thursday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver elevated the mantra to a new level.
“It’s an area, frankly, where I’ve acknowledged that I’m not sure how it was that it remained so male-dominated for so long. Because it’s an area of the game where physically, certainly, there’s no benefit to being a man, as opposed to a woman, when it comes to refereeing,” said Silver.
The NBA currently has three female officials but has yet to have a female head coach. And it feels like that’s about to change sooner than later.
Find out how Violet Palmer called foul on sexism on the basketball court and scored a slam dunk for women referees.
“The goal is: Going forward, it should be roughly 50-50 of new officials entering in the league. Same for coaches, by the way. We have a program, too. There’s no reason why women shouldn’t be coaching men’s basketball,” Silver explained.
If you haven’t been paying attention, change has been taken place for some time now when it comes to equality in sports, but even more in basketball.
In January, the Indiana Pacers made Kelly Krauskopf their new Assistant General Manager, the second woman to ever serve as an assistant GM in the league. The move put Krauskopf alongside former Pacers assistant GM Nancy Leonard, Jean Afterman of the New York Yankees and former Los Angeles Dodgers executive Kim Ng as the only women to hold those positions in major American professional sports history.
In Denver, Sue Bird is working as a basketball operations associate with the Nuggets, while Washington Mystics All-star Kristi Tolliver worked as an assistant coach for the Washington Wizards this season. In Philadelphia, Lindsey Harding serves as the Sixers player development coach.
And we already know that Becky Hammon has become the most prominent face when it comes to women coaching in the NBA, as she’s been on the San Antonio Spurs coaching staff since 2014.
History was made in the NBA this month when Becky Hammon was named head coach of the San Antonio Spurs summer league team
“I think there just has to be more, more of the same,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich last year. “There are more Beckys out there, they just have to be noticed and given the opportunity by people who are wise enough and courageous enough to do it and not just sit in the old paradigm.”
Women are also running the show behind the scenes.
Cynthia Marshall is the CEO of the Dallas Mavericks, Jeanie Buss has become a household name as the controlling owner of the Lakers with all of their recent drama, and Dr. Lisa Callahan is filling the role of chief medical officer for the New York Knicks and New York Liberty.
But, that’s just in the NBA.
The conversation was amplified back in April when Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw shared her thoughts on the subject.
“When you look at men’s basketball and 99 percent of the jobs go to men, why shouldn’t 100 or 99% of the jobs in women’s basketball go to women? Maybe it’s because we only have 10% women athletic directors in Division I. People hire people who look like them. And that’s the problem,” McGraw explained.
According to ThinkProgress.com, the percentage of female-led women’s college basketball programs dropped to 59% in 2018 from 79% in 1977.
“Men run the world. Men have the power. Men make the decisions,” said McGraw. “It’s always the men that is the stronger one. And when these girls are coming out, who are they looking up to tell them that that’s not the way it has to be? And where better to do that than in sports?”
Rachel Nichols, Brian Windhorst and Tracy McGrady of The Jump react to Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw’s speech about equality ahead of the 2019 NCAA Women’s Final Four.
From mothers to wives and girlfriends, and sisters, any man will tell you that the women in their loves play a huge role in who they are. James Brown even wrote a song about how this world would be nothing “without a woman or a girl.”
Which is why I believe that 127 years after the game of basketball was invented, it’s well past time for the women to get their fair shot.