Usta To Increase Diversity In Umpire Ranks

State Attorney General Spitzer today announced a landmark agreement to boost the number of female and minority chair umpires at tournaments run by the United States Tennis Association (USTA).

"Qualified female and minority umpires should be afforded equal opportunities to work at professional sporting events," Spitzer said. "This agreement will help ensure that this happens at USTA tournaments, and will provide a positive example throughout the sports world."

The Attorney General’s office began a probe of the USTA in late 2005 after receiving complaints about discrimination from current and former umpires. The office carefully reviewed umpiring assignments over a multi-year period and found significant gender disparities that could not be explained by differences in the qualifications of umpires.

For example, from 2003 to 2005, female umpires chaired about half of the main draw women’s matches but only a very small fraction of the main draw men’s matches at the U.S. Open. In fact, only five women were assigned to chair the 567 main draw men’s matches during these particular tournaments.

In addition, no female umpire was assigned to chair a later-round men’s match, while male umpires chaired approximately 20 later-round women’s matches during a similar time period.

The investigation also showed that very few minority umpires had been selected to chair matches at the U.S. Open, especially the more prominent later-round matches.

The agreement requires the USTA to:

  • Assign female chair umpires to men’s matches at the US Open and other tournaments in numbers approximating their representation in the pool of qualified applicants;
  • Adopt and implement anti-discrimination policies and procedures to ensure that all officials enjoy an equal opportunity to chair matches, receive training, and attain advanced certification;
  • Retain a diversity consultant to develop and implement a nation-wide program to increase the number of female and minority chair umpires, as part of an overall plan to increase diversity in the sport;
  • Train staff regarding the prohibitions against discrimination and the USTA’s diversity goals; and
  • Maintain enhanced records and data that will allow the Attorney General’s office to monitor compliance with the agreement and the extent to which the USTA is achieving its diversity goals.

Spitzer commended the USTA for its willingness to resolve this matter and its recognition of the importance of increasing diversity in the sport.

The Attorney General’s investigation and the Agreement produced significant changes at this year’s US Open. Carlos Bernardes, Jr., chaired the men’ s final between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick, marking the first time a black umpire chaired the finals since the 1970s. In addition, women chaired more than twice the number of men’s matches this year as compared to last year’s tournament, including the men’s semi-final match between Federer and Nikolay Davydenko.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey K. Powell, under the supervision of Natalie R. Williams, Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Civil Rights Bureau.

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