Diversity & Inclusion in Sports: African-American men leading America's tennis industry

09/04/2017 06:30 am ET Updated Sep 18, 2017

The U.S. Open Tennis Championships will soon crown its 2017 champions in the wondrous Arthur Ashe Stadium. The legacy and spirit of Ashe is not only commemorated by being the stadium's namesake, but also embodied and exalted by many of today’s American tennis leaders and custodians of the sport, specifically African-American men. 

According to the latest figures recently released by the Tennis Industry Association (TIA) and U.S. Tennis Association (USTA), which were part of the Physical Activity Council Annual Participation Study, African-Americans playing tennis has declined by 1.7% to 1.9 million. 

The total number of tennis players was 17.96 million, which increased 0.3%, according to the PAC study. “Core” tennis players—those who play 10 or more times a year—increased .5% to 9.96 million. There were 2.07 million new tennis players, which is a 3.8% increase according to the study. 

Leading "the only traditional participation sport to see an increase in overall participation over the last eight years—increasing 6% since 2007," are a few good African-American men. 

"One of our pillars would be image," D.A. Abrams, chief diversity officer for the USTA, told Rolling Stone last year.  "It's important for people to see themselves in the game. When you see like faces, it’s more inviting, more engaging, you feel welcome. Therefore, you tend to stay around longer, you continue to play [participate]."

Serving admirably with distinction as executives, coaches, administrators, patrons and volunteers, Abrams heads the following list of a few African-American men that are contributing to much of what is taking place in, and around, the Arthur Ashe Stadium at this year's U.S. Open.

In the spirit of the great player, coach, advocate, educator, executive and sports diplomat — Arthur Ashe — it is "important for people to see" who these leaders of today's American tennis industry are. 

"My potential is more than can be expressed within the bounds of my race or ethnic identity." — Arthur Ashe, Days of Grace: A Memoir

David Anthony Abrams | U.S. Tennis Association Chief Diversity Officer | Florida

Kevin Dowdell | Dalya Partners Managing Director and Montgomery TennisPlex Co-Owner | Maryland

Lance Lee | U.S. Tennis Association Southern California Executive Director | California 

Kamau Murray | XS Tennis President and CEO and The XS Tennis and Education Foundation Executive Director | Illinois

Martin Blackman | U.S. Tennis Association Player Development General Manager | Florida 

Keith Puryear | The United States Naval Academy Women's Tennis Head Coach | Maryland 

Rodney Harmon | The Georgia Institute of Technology Women’s Tennis Head Coach | Georgia

Bryan Shelton | University of Florida Men’s Tennis Head Coach | Florida 

David N. Dinkins | U.S. Tennis Association Foundation Honorary Board Member | New York

Richard Williams | Hall of Fame Coach | Florida

James Blake | U.S. Tennis Association Foundation Board Chairman | Connecticut

Frances Tiafoe | Association of Tennis Professionals Touring Pro | Florida

Donald Young | Association of Tennis Professionals Touring Pro | Georgia

Carlos Fleming | WME|IMG Talent Management and Marketing Executive | New York 

<a rel="nofollow" href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/carlos-fleming-7a25161/" target="_blank">Carlos Flemming</a> (left) with
Ali Ehrlich
Carlos Flemming (left) with ABC News producer, Ali Ehrlich (center), and U.S. Tennis Association Foundation chairman, James Blake (right), on the set of Good Morning America for the launch of Blake's book "Ways of Grace" in June.

John Borden | Junior Tennis Champions Center General Manager | Maryland

Willis Thomas, Jr. | Washington Tennis Education Foundation Vice President of Programs | Washington, D.C.

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