ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) The WNBA remains the leader among professional sports leagues for its racial and gender hiring practices, according to a report released Wednesday.
The league received A-plus grades for both race and gender hiring in the annual study by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. It marks the 10th consecutive year the WNBA has received at least A grades in each category.
The league broke its own record for the highest combined grade in the history of the institute's Racial and Gender Report Cards. Reports are also issued on the NBA, NFL, MLB, MLS and college sports.
''To say this is outstanding is an understatement,'' study author Richard Lapchick said of the WNBA's persistent high marks.
Lapchick also praised the leadership of WNBA President Laurel Richie in helping the league remain ''the standard setter.'' Hired in 2011, Richie is the first woman of color to lead a professional sports league.
Twelve women and six people of color had ownership positions in 2014, an increase of three women from 2013.
There are no people of color among the majority owners of the 12 teams, which the study defined as African-American, Latino/Latina, Asian and other.
People of color in WNBA ownership groups this season were Magic Johnson (Los Angeles Sparks), Jahm Najafi (Phoenix Mercury), Sam and Rita Combs (Tulsa Shock), Sheila C. Johnson and Raul Fernandez (Washington Mystics).
Female part-owners were Johnson (Mystics), Mary Brock and Kelly Loeffler (Atlanta Dream), Margaret Stender (Chicago Sky), Lisa Brummel, Ginny Gilder and Dawn Trudeau (Seattle Storm), Pat Chernicky, Pat Hardin, Linda Price, Katie Schofield and Combs (Shock).
The NBA is the only men's league comparable to the WNBA, having recently received an A-plus for racial hiring and B plus for gender hiring.
The number of females in top management roles (CEO and president) decreased from five to four from 2013 to 2014 in the women's professional basketball league that started in the summer of 1997.
Women working in team administration positions increased from 26 to 40. However, there was a percentage decline - 48 percent to 37 percent - because more administration positions were added in the last year.
''I think you tend to see bigger ebb and flow in the WNBA because there are so many fewer positons than other leagues we (report on),'' Lapchick said. ''Many of the staff members are shared with the NBA team where there are two franchises. Whenever we do see a drop, we just want to make sure it is not sustained.
''If there was a continuing decrease in certain areas next year, I'd be more concerned.''
Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower