Frank Robinson was a baseball Hall of Famer who played for the Baltimore Orioles before returning to manage the team and was honored with the American League Manager of the Year award in 1989. (Courtesy photo)

By Megan Sayles
AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member
msayles@afro.com

When you turn on the TV to support your favorite basketball team, there is no shortage of Black talent on the court. In fact, 74.2% of NBA players were African American in 2020, according to Statista. You’ll find that same majority representation in football with 57.5% of NFL players identifying as Black or African American.

However, this representation is not often found in ownership and management, and sports leagues and associations have long been criticized for their lack of diversity. These leadership roles are often filled by members of the rich, White boy’s club. Thankfully, some of our community has been able to secure these highly sought-after positions, and they are not just limited to basketball and football.

Frank Robinson

If you’re a baseball fan, you’ve definitely heard of Frank Robinson. In his 1956 debut season with the Cincinnati Reds, Robinson tied the record of 38 home runs by a rookie earning him the Rookie of the Year award. He won the MVP award twice, once with the Reds and for the second time with our own Baltimore Orioles. In 1975, Robinson became the first African American manager in the MLB when he achieved the title of player-manager for the Cleveland Indians. He went on to manage the San Francisco Giants, and in 1984 he returned to Baltimore to manage the Orioles. During his time there, he was honored with the American League Manager of the Year award in 1989.

Ozzie Newsome

Nicknamed “The Wizard,” Ozzie Newsome was introduced to the NFL as a tight end for the Cleveland Browns. In his rookie season, the Browns named him the Offensive Player of the Year in 1978. When he retired from football in 1990, Newsome was ranked as the fourth leading receiver in the NFL. He became a front-office executive with the Browns, and remained with the franchise when they relocated to Baltimore in 1996. In 2002, Newsome was named the first general manager of the Baltimore Ravens, which made him the first African American to obtain the position in NFL history.

Robert and Sheila Johnson

This power couple married in 1969 and co-founded the beloved BET network in 1980. In 2002, Robert and Sheila divorced, but their careers continued to explode. In 2003, Robert became the first African American majority owner of a major professional sports team with his purchase of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats, which had previously been called the Hornets at that time. A few years later, in 2005, Sheila became the first African-American woman to be a stakeholder in a professional sports team with her ownership of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. She continued to invest in Washington teams, including the NBA’s Wizards and NHL’s Capitals.

Michael Jordan

Besides being the greatest NBA player of all time, Michael Jordan is also the only Black majority owner of a sports team currently. Jordan returned to his North Carolina stomping grounds, when he purchased the Charlotte Bobcats, now known as the Hornets, from Robert Johnson in 2010. More recently, Jordan entered the racing industry by joining NASCAR for the 2021 season as co-owner of the 23XI racing team. Bubba Wallace, one of two Black drivers in NASCAR, is driving for the team.

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