NEW YORK, JULY 8 -- NBA Commissioner David J. Stern and NAACP executive director Benjamin L. Hooks said today they have agreed to a plan that ultimately could increase the number of blacks in front-office jobs.
No details were offered on how the agreement would be implemented, and Stern said he wanted to avoid "playing a numbers" game by setting specific goals. But Hooks hailed the agreement as the first step in the NAACP's drive to increase black and minority nonplayer representation in basketball, football and baseball.
The NAACP's action gathered steam after former Dodgers executive vice president Al Campanis said on national television that he thought certain blacks might lack some of the "necessities" to be managers and general managers. Campanis was forced to resign after the remarks.
"Obviously, the Campanis incident focused a great deal of attention on this," Stern said, adding that NBA owners had planned to scrutinize their employment practices, anyway. "This is a mandate not being forced on the NBA teams, but that is welcomed. Certainly I'm preaching to the converted."
Hooks said the agreement is the fruit of the NAACP's ongoing effort to integrate sports teams' front offices.
Sports league officials, Hooks said, were approached and asked whether they would cooperate with the NAACP's effort.
"When I meet with the commissioners, I don't deal at that time with figures," said Hooks. "I deal with attitude."
Hooks said he received expressions of support from NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth.
"No one would dispute that the NBA is an equal opportunity employer on the court, and it has made strides in the hiring of coaches, general managers, and more recently, front office personnel," said Hooks. "The announcement of this agreement indicates that the NBA recognizes that there is some work to be done and is prepared to continue to do something about it."
Stern said that about 30 percent of the NBA's front-office positions, including four coaching jobs, are held by blacks or minorities, adding that the NBA has been a "pioneer in minority employment."
Hooks said it will be left to the NAACP's 1,700 chapters nationwide to negotiate with teams, similar to the 36 "fair share" agreements the civil rights organization worked out with other industries, including Coca-Cola.
"We're going to start a little squeaky-wheel action," said Hooks.