Why the NFL's Rooney Rule is a Sham
Black Enterprise Magazine January-March 2019 Issue

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Daniel Milton Rooney, chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is credited with promoting the "Rooney Rule," a requirement that NFL teams with head coach and general manager vacancies interview at least one minority candidate.

As we marveled at the athletic prowess demonstrated during the playoffs and Super Bowl, we realized how African American football players in every position continue to elevate the game. That’s why I find it so deplorable that the NFL will give African Americans an opportunity to toss a pigskin ball, sprint  down the field to score or ferociously tackle opponents, but it will not allow us to call plays as head coaches or make business decisions as front-office executives.

Let’s check the stats: Even though more than 65% of NFL players are Black, currently only three head coaches and five general managers are African American. To make matters worse, since the end of the regular season, eight head coaches and seven GMs were fired, and all 15 vacancies have been filled by so-called “qualified” white candidates.

I’m throwing a flag on such hiring practices.

It appears owners of the 32 NFL franchises have essentially disregarded the Rooney Rule – the decade-old initiative to promote the recruitment of minority head coaches and front-office executives – and re-instituted a “blackout” rule when it comes to considering candidates of color.

Prior to the establishment of the Rooney Rule in 2003, only six African Americans held head coaching positions since the league’s inception in 1920.

Since that time, NFL franchises have hired 11 African Americans and one Latino. Moreover, of the past seven Super Bowls — including Sunday’s game — four African American head coaches (Chicago Bears’ Lovie Smith, Indianapolis Colts’ Tony Dungy, Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin and Colts’ Jim Caldwell) and three African American GMs (Jerry Reese of New York Giants, Rod Graves of Arizona Cardinals and Ozzie Newsome of Baltimore Ravens) have lead their teams to the Holy Grail of the sport.

Despite this track record of achievement, the NFL has lost considerable yardage in senior management diversity. It should be an embarrassment to the NFL that of the eight teams that have interviewed and recruited head coaches and the seven that conducted “extensive” GM searches, none saw fit to seriously consider much less hire an African American or other ethnic minorities.

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