Out of the 31 NFL teams, only four are coached by African Americans. By comparison, the NBA had seven African American head coaches (24%) in the 1997 season. In Major League Baseball there were three black managers (11%) and one Hispanic manager (3%).
So far the NFL has named only four black head coaches: Art Shell, formerly of the Oakland Raiders, Ray Rhodes of the Philadelphia Eagles, Tony Dungy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green. In 1997, 11 head coach vacancies were filled-all by white men.
So while the job that Green and Gilliam are doing with the Vikings speaks volumes about the coaching and management abilities of African Americans who have long been shut out of the NFL front office, the opportunities are still few and far between. Even though the ethnic player makeup of the NFL is 66% black, the numbers of blacks in the front office and in head coaching positions is severely underrepresented in relation to their domination on the playing field. This, despite the fact, that qualified African American candidates may possess years of experience.
BREAKING THROUGH THE LINE
So what’s all the fuss about? Who really cares if there are black head coaches in the NFL? It’s just a game, right? Today’s NFL isn’t simply entertainment; it’s a massive conglomerate-responsible for generating more revenue than many Fortune 500 companies. Football stadiums are a tremendous source of revenue for clubs as well as the cities that host them. All across the U.S., cities are engaged in bidding wars to obtain or retain NFL franchises.
But Charles S. Farrell, director of Rainbow Sports for the Rainbow Push Coalition feels the mentality still pervades that blacks are not management material in this billion-dollar industry. “A lot of people were energized a year ago celebrating the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color line,” Farrell says. “But if Jackie Robinson were alive today, he would be appalled at the lack of progress made beyond the playing field.”
The 1997 Racial Report Card also examined the front office positions held by minorities in the major sports. In the NFL, 10% of senior administration were black and 16% were women. In the NBA, 11% of senior administration positions are held by blacks and 31% by women. The study had no comparable data for baseball.
“The NFL and NBA haven’t granted a lot of licenses to African Americans,” says Farrell. “We have to get African Americans involved in the construction of these stadiums as vendors. We have to get them involved at all levels of the sport.”
THIRD AND LONG
Talk about a study in patience-take a look at Tampa Bay Buccaneer Head Coach Tony Dungy. Dungy knows all about the benefits of patience and perseverance. While numerous other coaching candidates with far less experience got their shot at running an NFL club, it took the mild-mannered Dungy 15 years of molding some of the NFL’s toughest defensive units before he landed a head coaching job. “There are perceptions in the NFL about what it takes to