By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) – NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Thursday made a call for more gender diversity among referees and head coaches in a league he has overseen for five years.
Silver, speaking during a moderated discussion at The Economic Club of Washington, D.C., said two of the last five referees brought into the NBA from its developmental league were women, which brought the total number to three.
“I’m not sure how it was that it remained so male-dominated for so long, because it’s an area of the game where physically, certainly, there’s no benefit to being a man, as opposed to a woman, when it comes to refereeing,” Silver said in a video posted on the club’s website.
Silver, who was unanimously elected commissioner by the NBA’s Board of Governors in February 2014, has long been a proponent for diversity and last year sent a memo encouraging team owners to increase the number of women at all levels.
He has also said on numerous occasions that he hopes to see a woman ascend to the helm of one of the league’s teams.
“The goal is: Going forward, it should be roughly 50-50 of new officials entering in the league,” Silver said on Thursday.
“Same for coaches, by the way. We have a program, too. There’s no reason why women shouldn’t be coaching men’s basketball.”
Already considered the most progressive men’s sports league in North America, the NBA has put in place a strategy to build an “inclusion instinct”, a state where being inclusive is second nature and not something anyone has to think about.
Becky Hammon broke convention in 2014 when the San Antonio Spurs made her the first full-time, female assistant in any of the four major North American pro sports leagues.
Last year the decorated former WNBA player interviewed for the Milwaukee Bucks’ head coaching job in the biggest sign yet that the league could soon have a female head coach.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Nick Mulvenney)