Why Has the 'Rooney Rule' Not Produced More Black Coaches?

By WILL GRAVES, AP Sports activities Author

The NFL’s uneven observe file by way of hiring minority head coaches has come underneath hearth following a class-action federal lawsuit filed by former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores.

Flores, who’s Black, sued the NFL, three groups and others, claiming the league’s hiring practices for coaches and common managers is racist and that the league is “rife with racism” even because it publicly condemns it. Greater than 70% of the gamers within the NFL are non-white.

Flores’ lawsuit comes almost 20 years after the NFL instituted what is called the “Rooney Rule,” which initially required groups to interview a minimum of one exterior minority candidate for a head teaching emptiness.

Critics say it merely doesn’t result in head teaching jobs for minority candidates and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged the league is “not having the success we wish.”

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A have a look at how the NFL obtained right here and doable options to a difficulty that’s not distinctive to the league.

Adopted by the NFL in 2003, the mandate is known as for Dan Rooney, the Pittsburgh Steelers proprietor and one of many league’s most progressive leaders throughout his close to lifelong affiliation with the NFL.

The preliminary iteration required groups to interview a minimum of one exterior minority candidate for every head teaching emptiness. The rule now requires groups to interview a minimum of two exterior minority candidates at a number of ranges of management, together with common supervisor and different comparable entrance workplace positions.

Whereas there could also be extra minority candidates getting interviews now than ever earlier than, they aren’t essentially touchdown head teaching jobs with any larger frequency than they had been twenty years in the past.

There have been two Black coaches within the NFL in 2002, the 12 months earlier than the rule was adopted. That quantity has hovered between three and 6 in a 32-team league the place seven of each 10 gamers is a minority.

In the meanwhile, there are 5 minority head coaches: Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh), Ron Rivera (Washington), Lovie Smith (Houston), Robert Saleh (New York Jets) and Mike McDaniels (Miami). Smith and McDaniels had been employed this week.

A have a look at teaching staffs gives promise. Greater than a 3rd of NFL assistants had been minorities in 2021, in response to the Institute for Range and Ethics in Sport. But there have been solely two Black offensive coordinators this season, a job thought of the ultimate step of the ladder earlier than changing into a head coach.

NFL Gamers Affiliation govt director DeMaurice Smith, an legal professional, calls the rule extra of a “suggestion” than a requirement.

“How necessary is a rule the place it has no penalties? How sturdy is a rule the place it has no transparency? How good is a rule if nobody is held accountable to it?” Smith mentioned.


Some factions of company America have taken steps to undertake hiring practices that mirror some aspects of the Rooney Rule to deal with an alarming lack of range in higher administration. Over 90% of Fortune 500 presidents and CEOs are white and solely 3% are Black, in response to the Institute for Range and Ethics in Sport.

Final 12 months, 5 of the most important banks — J.P. Morgan Chase, Financial institution of America, Citigroup, U.S. Bancorp and Wells Fargo — enacted insurance policies that echo the Rooney Rule as a part of rising efforts to diversify their management ranks within the wake of racial justice protests.


Flores was fired in January following three seasons with the Miami Dolphins through which he went 24-25, together with 9-8 in 2021. The staff didn’t make the playoffs throughout his tenure, however did make appreciable progress.

Within the lawsuit filed Feb. 1, Flores claims Black coaches are usually not given the latitude different coaches obtain to succeed and famous he led the Dolphins to back-to-back successful seasons for the primary time since 2003 — progress not ok for him to maintain his job.

Miami proprietor Stephen Ross, who’s white, has cited unspecified communication points between Flores and the entrance workplace as a consider his resolution.

Goodell advised reporters this week the league is not going to tolerate racism or discrimination and referred to as the allegations “disturbing.” NFL range chief Jonathan Beane mentioned the league is in search of methods to work with golf equipment to verify the interview course of is “equitable and legit.”

“When we’ve extremely sturdy various individuals as candidates and they aren’t employed, one thing is improper,” Beane mentioned.


Former NFL common supervisor Mike Tannenbaum thinks groups may domesticate methods to have “extra natural” and casual interactions with younger coaches outdoors the parameters of a job interview lengthy earlier than there may be an precise head teaching emptiness.

“I’ve been part of the interview course of,” he mentioned. “It may be stiff. It may be onerous. … The extra individuals get to know one another and have earnest conversations, I feel that may result in significantly better outcomes.”

Richard Lapchick of the Institute for Range and Ethics in Sport believes energetic gamers may assist by taking a extra activist function, one thing Lapchick says has led to a rise in minority management hiring within the NBA.

Company consultants say one of many keys could be making a extra various interview panel and mandating extra transparency within the decision-making course of. All however two of NFL’s 32 groups are owned by white males or girls, who typically have the ultimate say on main hires.

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