🔥Upside Chat: Dr Ron Dick, Duquesne University on Diversity in Elite Sports, MLS/NBA Season
This week we had the honor to interview again Dr. Ron Dick, associate professor of sports marketing at Duquesne University in the school of business. Ron also worked for 20 years in sports, including 15 years in the NBA with the Sixers and the Nets, and then four years in the NCAA.
📝Show Notes: Throughout our conversation, we talked about the various leagues (NBA, MLS, Laliga, Premiere League) that are resuming their respective competitions. We also touched on the NCAA and how COVID-19 is impacting there. Finally we discussed the recent protests from players as part of the Black Live Matters movement as well as the diversity in the world of elite sports today.
🚀Best Quotes: Here’s some of the key discussion points and best quotes from our conversation with Ron:
On the NBA’s decision to resume their season in Orlando: “I think we have to step back for one second and say": “why did the NBA pick that area?” And I think it has a lot to do with ESPN. It also has a lot to do with ABC, which are the same company, as is Disney. So it's kind of like taking money out of the left pocket, putting it in the right pocket. Disney ESPN, and ABC. It seemed like a convenient place to go when the decision was made. Since then, the Orlando area has spiked (in terms of COVID-19 cases) as the rest of Florida. I think it was really the only option they had, that was realistic. The good news is that the players aren't going to have to do a lot of moving around from city to city, airplane to airplane, car to car, bus to bus. That's the good news. The bad news is that it's very difficult for a lot of these athletes, especially the single athletes, when we say “When you go home, we want you to isolate.. Just stay in this bubble with us. Don't bring anybody in from the outside, a girlfriend, anyone that you could meet”. I don't know that that's feasible. Is it really right to tell someone, if they do have a family with wives and kids? That could be a problem too. That's the part of it that I think is going to be very difficult for all the four major teams”.
On the NBA’s and MLS’ decision to restart their season: “If I would look at this from a team owner standpoint, and from the general managers, the coaches, and then the players, you've got to believe it's all about television. And there's a lot of money there now. For some of these sports, ticket sales account for less than 20 percent of their income. So it's all about television. And with that income from television, you can certainly handle your sponsors as well. So I think if they could just look at it from that standpoint, there's a chance that they could get some of these games in. It's not a problem that there's no tickets. I mean, look at what the KBO has done, the Korean baseball association. They haven't seen a spike of players getting it. They've been doing this for about two months now, and they're making it work”.
On why the NHL is likely to be the greatest success among all North American sports leagues: “I think the sport that will have the greatest chance of success will be the NHL. And the reason I say that is that they picked Edmonton, which is a smaller city population-wise. It's sequestered away. In Toronto, certainly the largest city in Canada, they test their players very well. There's no delays in the testing. And they're just going to blow it out and play three games a day at the sites. So one group, one conference, I think the Eastern Conference, is going to go to one of the spots, and the Western Conference is going to go to the other spot. And then they're going to get up to finalists, and then decide where to play the Stanley Cup. That’s why I think they've got the best chance to get through this gauntlet. And that's why the MLB picked only 60 games. I think the owners' greatest fear was that they weren't going to be able to conclude the regular season, or even have a regular season. And then the players get their money prorated. And then they, of course, make most of their money in the post season. So I think that's what baseball is really hoping for. They are hoping for: “a delay, delay, delay. We start on July 23rd, we get to September 27th, and then bang, we start the playoffs”.
On the Ivy leagues schools’ decision to cancel games: “Yeah, they're going to cancel all their sports: Soccer, football, and basketball until January. Maybe we'll bring the basketballs back. Volleyball's canceled. And now in their situation with the Ivy league, they don't give out Athletic scholarships. They are participate in Division I, but their financial situation is that it's a drain. Those sports are absolute drains, even football and basketball. So in that case, they're not really losing any money. Of course they're extremely well endowed, heavily endowed schools that have lots of money that if they wanted to do that, they could. But they've chosen not to put the accent on sports. So as you sent to me yesterday, if the five major conferences, they call them the Power 5 conferences, SEC, ACC, Big 12, Big 10, and the Pac-12, if they don't play football, that would be a 4 billion dollar loss of revenue for those schools (..) And the NFL is very interesting because they've delayed, delayed, delayed, and canceled preseason games, and now they want to just go right into it. I think that they're afraid that it could spread quickly there also”.
On the diversity in elite sports: “I think we do have a long way to go. And one of the ways we can measure diversity is something that was developed in college way back in 1972 with the Title IV issue, meaning what we do for women's sports we have to do for men. And you look at a school like James Madison or Duquesne, which is like 62 percent female, then you're supposed to have 62 percent of your student body is female, 62 percent of your students should be female athletes, student athletes. Well, the same thing is true, if you would take that, the rule of proportionality, that if 70 ... So based on that 74.4 percent of the NBA players are black, then wouldn't 74.4 percent of the NBA coaches be black? and the general managers be black? But we don't have that right now. We're not even close to that. So that's something that needs to be improved on”.
On the protests, and athletes and teams bringing their support to Black Lives Matter: “On the George Floyd situation, the tragedy of it, I think a lot of the players in the NBA in particular, and the NFL, the fact that this feels like a watershed moment. We feel like we're really making traction in the area of race relations getting better, hopefully. And people being more outspoken, and showing attention to the situation of the racism that exists. I think the players are. And is it the fact that we're all at home, kind of sitting in our house, watching stuff on our cell phones, watching stuff on television, the news on TV.? And if that's true, then some of the players have shared in the NBA that they're reluctant to go back to work. They really want to get behind this cause and keep it moving. If we had basketball games, and you had a forum of a post-game press conference where you would have all the cameras and lights on you, like an NBA Eastern or Western final or an NBA final in the playoffs, I think you could shed even more light on the issue, and draw more attention to it”.
On the situation in the NFL: “What’s happening at the White house is not helping (..) And I can tell you one thing you can expect, I would say upwards to 70 plus percent of the NFL players will take a knee (..) I think that we better expect that that's going to happen. And the Jerry Jones of the world, of the Dallas Cowboys, he needs to learn to deal with it. And if he gets too outspoken on this issue, I think history will show he's on the wrong side of history. But you go back to 1968, and of course I was very young back then, but you go back to what you read and you hear about, these same issues were burning issues back then. So I think we've made some progress, but we still have a long ways to go”.
On gender diversity in sports especially in the NBA: “It's only happened within the last 10 years that we've had a female on the bench, as an assistant coach in the NBA.
On whether or not we have made progress in terms of diversity in elite sports in the last 4 years: “I think the best we can say is we've treaded water. I don't think we made the progress we need to, as far as getting jobs for minority candidates. Now, of course the NFL is very good with the Rooney Rule, which came here in Pittsburgh. The Rooney family. That you had to interview at least one minority candidate. And now the NFL has gone even further to say that if you hire a minority candidate, then your draft pick will move up. They want to reward you and compensate you in some way to do that. And there's a lot of mixed feelings on that too, but I think overall that's a good thing. Some people aren't sure if it is or not. I would say it is a good thing, to do that. To incentivize people to do the right thing”.
On players like Maker deciding to go to Howard University as opposed to going to UCLA: “Another real positive thing that I see happening in college, dealing with diversity and race relations., there's a player named, I don't want to mispronounce his first name, but his last name is maker, M-A-K-E-R. Makur Maker. And he is a five star high school basketball player from California. And he has decided to not go to UCLA locally, or to go to Kentucky or Duke or Memphis. He has chosen to go to Howard University, which is kind of the Harvard of the Historical Black College Universities, HBCs. And that is groundbreaking. Like, that's unheard of. And here's a guy that feels that was the best fit for him. So, now a year later, he'll probably declare for the draft. Could you imagine, though, if you could see Howard or Grambling in the Final Four for men's basketball? That would be pretty exciting”.
On the outcome for each major sports leagues: “I like the NHL hockey package the best as far as being able to get through this gauntlet and actually crown a Stanley cup champion. I certainly understand why the MLB only picked 60 games because I think they think it's going to be difficult. The owners think that just to get through 60 games will be challenging. You may see 50 games. I think the NFL, once they start playing because it is such a violent sport and the players are always grabbing each other, or you see spit's flying, sweat's flying on these impacts (..) Because of that I'm not a hundred percent sure they're going to make it through the whole 17 weeks”.