September 17, 2014

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) The NFL set an all-time high for its racial hiring practices, yet continues to struggle with diversity in gender hiring at the team level.

The annual report released Wednesday by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport gave the league its fifth consecutive A for racial hiring and a C-minus for gender hiring. The league received an overall grade of B.

At the league office, the total number of women and people of color employed at or above the vice president level increased by one hire to 32 in 2014, compared to 2013.

At the team level, women accounted for 17 percent of vice presidents in 2012, but just 15 percent in 2013. Women held 37 of 252 available vice president positions in 2012, compared to 39 of the 298 in 2013.

The institute conducted analysis of the demographics of players, managers and coaches by using data from the 2013 season. Information for head coaches, general managers, presidents and owners was updated as of July.

New England, Seattle, Miami, Detroit, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Buffalo, Atlanta and Houston were the only teams in 2013 with more than one woman as a vice president.

The report comes when the NFL is confronting criticism about how its leaders handled recent incidents involving players accused of physical abuse.

Richard Lapchick, the author of the report, said a possible positive outcome may involve teams hiring more diverse employees to help with decision-making processes in the future.

''I wonder if we would have had fewer African Americans in the senior positions in NBA, if the commissioner would have been as resounding in his response to Donald Sterling situation?'' Lapchick said. ''And I wonder with the Ray Rice situation, if in the NFL more senior women officials were there at the time if they would have been provided a sounding board and the results would have been different in the last month and a half?''

The NFL made a small recovery in diversity among head coaches. The number of minority head coaches dropped to four in 2013, but the addition of Lovie Smith to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers increased the number to five at the start of the 2014 season. The all-time high was eight minority coaches in 2011.

Lapchick believes the improvement in hiring inside the NFL's league office is the result of its diversity initiatives, which include the NFL Diversity Council and Women's Interactive Network, established in 2002 and 2011, respectively.

''I think there's been a concerted effort,'' Lapchick said. ''(NFL Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer) Robert Gulliver being hired to help the commissioner's office to increase the number women and people of color has had a big impact. We've seen the results increase annually.''

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