The Racial Composition of National Basketball Association Teams and their Franchise Cities, 1990 to 2005

By Daniel Coogan.

Published by The Sport Collection

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This paper compares the racial composition of National Basketball Association (NBA) Teams with the racial composition of their franchise cities in 5 year increments from 1990 to 2005. Although research comparing attendance records with the racial composition of teams and their franchise cities indicates mixed results, Karabel and Karen (1982) found a positive correlation between the number of African Americans on NBA teams and the cities in which the franchises were located. Anecdotal evidence also indicates that owners sought to attract fans with teams that reflected their cities’ racial demographics. In 1980, Ted Stepien, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, proclaimed, “I think the Cavs have too many blacks, ten of eleven. You need a blend of white and black. I think that draws and I think that’s a better team.”

While the percentage of African Americans in the U.S. remained constant during the 15-year period of this study, the percentage of African American players in the NBA rose in the mid-1990s and then declined gradually until 2005 when it reached a level similar to the early 1990s. Analysis of NBA teams, and 1990, 1995, 2000, and 2005 Census Bureau data reveal little evidence that NBA organizations field teams that reflect the racial composition of their franchise Metro Statistical Areas (MSAs).

Keywords: Race, African American, Basketball, Demographics, Franchise Cities, NBA

The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp.79-94. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.033MB).

Daniel Coogan

Doctoral Student, Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA

Dan Coogan is a second-year PhD student at George Washington University’s Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, and my concentration is in Race, Ethnicity, and Public Policy. My primary research area is race and sports, with a focus on how the American media portrays African American athletes. In particular I am interested in how the sports media uses images and language to shape the American publics’ perception of African American athletes with respect to physical and psychological attributes. My previous research has looked at how the NBA’s dress code affected (or targeted) different racial groups of players.