[SPORTS OPINION] Rooney Rule enforcement essential for reinvention

NUMBERS+GAME.+Between+2012+and+2021%2C+the+league+has+only+hired+11+men+of+color+to+head+coaching+jobs%2C+contrary+to+the+51+white+men+who+were+hired+for+the+same+position+in+the+same+period.

NUMBERS GAME. Between 2012 and 2021, the league has only hired 11 men of color to head coaching jobs, contrary to the 51 white men who were hired for the same position in the same period.

The NFL’s Rooney Rule started as a well-intentioned adaptation to the league’s lack of diversity in its coaching and administration but has not so subtly turned into more of a “check the box” step in the interview process.

Contrary to the administration staff in the league, over 70 percent of the league’s players are of color.”

Named after one of the former owners of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the former chairman of the NFL’s diversity committee, Dan Rooney, in 2003, the NFL’s Workplace Diversity Committee developed the idea of the rule to diversify the staff within the highly viewed and supported franchise. Whether it be a coach or an offensive coordinator, if team administration is looking for someone to hire, they are required by the rule to interview at least two minority candidates for a head coach position and at least one minority candidate for coordinator positions. It has clearly been a needed step; between 2012 and 2021, the league has only hired 11 men of color to head coaching jobs, contrary to the 51 white men who were hired for the same position in the same period. From the 2013 through 2021 seasons, the league averaged just over 18 percent of the head coaches who were men of color. The other 82 percent were white. There was no constant increase or decrease in diversity since it changed in both directions almost every year. There were only two seasons included in that time where the diversity was above 20 percent. 2017 and 2018. Remarkably though, after 2018, the percentage dropped down to 12.5 percent and stayed there for two seasons. Contrary to the administration staff in the league, over 70 percent of the league’s players are of color. With hardly any female coaches in the history of the league, the 2021 season had a record-breaking 12 female coaches, three of which were interns.

Brian Flores, a former black coach for the Miami Dolphins, thinks the rule is a sham. He recently filed a lawsuit against the NFL, the Miami Dolphins, the New York Giants, and the Denver Broncos, alleging racial discrimination in the league’s hiring practices. After being fired as head coach from the Miami Dolphins in January of this year, Flores tried for a position with the New York Giants. In a text exchange between Flores and New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, Flores found out the Giants had already hired Brian Daboll, a former offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills. The exchange was days before Flores was scheduled to have his interview.

The NFL absolutely needs to change and re-invent its hiring procedures to stray away from the “old boys network” it consists of right now. The league should be making a genuine commitment to diversifying its administration staff. While that may have been the intent with the initial development of the rule, it clearly is not now. They need to hold their teams accountable for properly implementing the Rooney Rule and giving authentic interviews and valid consideration to POC candidates. If that does not bring change, it could be the public’s turn to hold the NFL itself accountable. Write letters, utilize social media, and draw attention to the lack of diversity.