The NBA is the first of the four major sports leagues to really open itself up to women coaching and officiating games played by men. Commissioner Adam Silver has previously voiced his support of gender parity in the NBA, and on Wednesday he made a strong statement in favor of female coaches and referees.
While doing an interview with the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., Silver was asked about female referees. When he answered, he talked about what he hoped to see in the future as far as female representation in the NBA.
Silver says going forward, the NBA has set a goal of half of their referee hires being women. And said it should be the same for coaching: "There’s no reason why women shouldn’t be coaching men’s basketball." pic.twitter.com/5XyDdQ216k
— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) May 9, 2019
Silver told the group assembled at the Economic Club that he’s not sure why NBA officiating remained male-dominated for so long, since “certainly there’s no benefit to being a man, as opposed to a woman when it comes to refereeing.” But then he went farther: he wants half of referees and coaches entering the NBA to be women.
“ ... the goal is, going forward, it should be roughly 50-50 of new officials entering in the league, same for coaches by the way. Program too. There’s no reason why women shouldn’t be coaching men’s basketball.”
There are currently three female referees in the NBA. Two of them, Ashley Moyer-Gleich and Natalie Sago, were promoted to the NBA at the start of the 2018-19 season. There are six female coaches in the NBA: San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon, Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach Natalie Nakase, Washington Wizards assistant coach Kristi Toliver (who is returning to the Mystics of the WNBA for the upcoming season), Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach Lindsey Harding, Dallas Mavericks player development coach Jenny Boucek and Greensboro Swarm (of the G League) assistant coach Chasity Melvin.
Three referees and six coaches isn’t much (especially considering the total number of assistants each of the 30 NBA teams have on their payroll), but it’s far more than the NHL, NFL or MLB have in their leagues. Hammon even interviewed for the Milwaukee Bucks’ vacant head coach position in May 2018. Even though she didn’t end up getting the job, it was progress.
Of course, words will only take Silver and the NBA so far. He can say he wants there to be a 50-50 gender split among coaches and referees, but it won’t happen by itself. Silver will have to work to make this happen with every team in the NBA. The sentiment is admirable, but it only matters if he backs it up with action.
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