Monday, November 14, 2011

Using a story to illuminate the statistics

Today's New York Times carries a compelling column by Harvey Araton about Dr. Richard Lapchick and his work examining racial bias in big-time sports, both professional and college Division I. The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), which Lapchick directs, has links to many of the reports, including graduation rates in Division I college football and basketball (women's too), and hiring in the front offices of the NBA, NFL, MLB, and MLS. TIDES also produced an interesting report about the racial and ethnic makeup of the ad agency creative directors who made ads for the 2011 Super Bowl (mostly white males) and the content of the ads. As the report puts it,
In addition to the continuing use of gratuitous sexual content, this year's bundle of ads managed to depict some women in an antagonistic manner featuring a number of ads portraying men attempting to appease their overbearing girlfriends. There was also a lack of people of color featured as main characters in the advertisements.
The report goes on to state the (huge) numbers of African-American, Latino, and female viewers of the 2011 Super Bowl.

Lapchick's personal story, as Araton tells it, is just as important. To quote the article:
In a voice measured and firm, he told of being brutally assaulted more than 30 years ago for asserting that sports was a vehicle from which to propagate change — and having the word nigger, misspelled with one G, carved onto his stomach with a pair of scissors.
  . . . In an instant, eyes widened. Jaws dropped. Mission accomplished, Lapchick unleashed his statistical barrage, aiming to quantify how far sports has come in the pursuit of racial and gender diversity — and how far the industry still has to go.
In other words, once he's got his audience's attention with one compelling episode, Dr. Lapchick can relate the bigger story the statistics tell. And that's a lesson worth remembering.

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