The idea took root when Robert Johnson was awarded the new NBA
franchise in Charlotte, making him the first minority to be the
majority owner of a major professional team. In taking note of
this historic moment, we thought we'd compile a list of other
minorities wielding power in the world of sports. At first we
were going to make a Top 25 list. Then a Top 50. But as reporters
Gene Menez, Elizabeth Newman and Andrea Woo researched the
subject, they found more minorities with substantial influence
than anyone had expected. "The list just grew and grew and grew,"
says associate editor B.J. Schecter.
Thus did our ranking of the most powerful 101 minorities in
sports come to full flower. Assistant managing editor Roy S.
Johnson and Schecter steered the project; senior writer Phil
Taylor reported on Robert Johnson's historic purchase of the
Charlotte franchise. Writer-reporter Richard Deitsch profiled 94
of the remaining 100 (phew!) people on the list, and deputy photo
editor George Washington rounded up the images for the project,
relying heavily on staff photographer Jeffery A. Salter.
SI's Johnson, who returned to the magazine in December for his
third stint, noted that this package comes 35 years after SI
undertook its groundbreaking report on race and sports. So many
inroads have been made since then that minorities now permeate
nearly every aspect of the business. "We kept coming across more
and more people who were making big decisions, hiring and firing,
managing huge budgets," Johnson says. "Our list also takes note
of athletes who are enormous economic forces."
"Everyone knows about Tiger Woods, Serena Williams and Shaquille
O'Neal," Schecter adds, "but this goes beyond them."
Washington, when sending letters to the subjects, reminded them
that they had all overcome obstacles in their path to success. If
young readers could see the images of people who looked like them
and who had made it, those young people would know that they
could make it too. "When I brought that up, then people were
really eager to cooperate," Washington says.
Inspiring that next generation is, SI's Johnson hopes, one of the
results of this project.