Saturday, June 6, 2020

Rooney Rule changes highlight how big an issue racial bias is.

May 22, 2020 by  
Filed under News, Opinion, Sports, Weekly Columns

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( It is extremely rare when the biggest NFL news over the past week do not involve any player acquisition, free agent signing, or contract extension but it happened this week involving “the Rooney Rule”, which was created back in 2003 to give minority candidates opportunities for NFL front office and head coaching interviews. According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, the NFL officially amended the Rooney Rule to require NFL teams “to interview at least two candidates from outside their organization for any vacant head-coaching job and at least one minority candidate from outside their organization for any vacant offensive, defensive or special-teams coordinator job. Previously, the Rooney Rule had required teams to interview only one minority candidate for head coach and none for coordinator.” The newest iteration of the Rooney Rule also “ expanded to apply to a number of executive positions.” It is the latest case of the NFL appearing to make an attempt to improve its loathsome lack of representation of men of color leading NFL teams beyond their presence on the playing field.

The National Football League is filled with plenty of black athletes that are the most recognizable names of their respective NFL franchises including the Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson, Los Angeles Rams’ Aaron Donald, Denver Broncos’ Von Miller, and Cleveland Browns’ Odell Beckham Jr. However, the leaders of NFL teams are often viewed as the quarterbacks and the head coaches. While it seems that football fans are in a golden age of black quarterback talent, there isn’t quite as much minority NFL head coaches as there have been in the recent past. There are currently four minority NFL head coaches, three black coaches and one Latino coach. Given four out of 32 NFL head coaches are minorities means 12.5 percent of head coaches are racial minorities, which isn’t bad considering the American population. However, approximately 58.9 percent of NFL players at the start of the 2019 NFL season were black according to the 2019 NFL Racial and Gender Report Card. It is difficult to reconcile the majority of NFL players, meaning they have the intelligence and ability to play NFL football, being black, and the men leading them as head coaches being overwhelmingly white.

There was a controversial Rooney Rule proposal that was not part of the recent adjustments to the Rooney Rule. The proposal was that an NFL team could improve its third-round draft selection by up to 16 picks, going up 10 spots for hiring a minority candidate as general manager or an equivalent-level position and six spots for hiring a minority head coach. Incentivizing NFL teams to hire black candidates through draft pick advantages was highly polarizing even for notable NFL people like Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy, who was against the notion. He mentioned that, “I just have never been in favor of rewarding people for doing the right thing.” That is understandable but ultimately that is what is needed to have NFL owners, who are overwhelmingly white, consider black men in major NFL leadership positions.

On a broader scale, America had to be incentivized into “doing the right thing” through the Civil Rights Movement and understanding that having a sizable percentage of Americans who are not granted full civil rights as their white counterparts was detrimental to the country as a whole. Regarding the idea that black head coaches hired would be viewed as getting their positions unjustly “because of the draft compensation”, it is important to note that same sentiment could be applied to white NFL coaches as well.

Last year, football people joked about “the Sean McVay effect” regarding hiring young offensive coordinators with limited NFL experience as coordinators to be NFL head coaches. Of course, all those coaches under the “Sean McVay effect” were white like McVay. Unqualified white football coaches are not viewed as getting head coaching jobs over qualified black football coaches because ingrained racial bias concludes that there is no such thing as an unqualified white football coach in relation to a more qualified black football coach. The NFL’s issue with hiring black head coaches is due to America’s innate inability to see that black leadership can be on par with white leadership.

Staff Writer; Mark Hines

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