On the first day of Black History Month, former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores decided that enough was enough. He filed a lawsuit against three NFL teams: the Denver Broncos, New York Giants and Miami Dolphins and against the league itself for discrimination in the hiring and firing processes of coaches.
Flores is Black, and even though his time spent in Miami resulted in more wins than losses he was still fired. Flores claimed that he was given a sham interview by the New York Giants merely to fulfill the Rooney Rule requirement. His complaint included a screenshot of a text from Bill Belichick congratulating him on getting the Giants job three days before his interview, which led to Coach Belichick realizing he congratulated the wrong Brian. It was announced Jan. 28 that the New York Giants hired the Buffalo Bills’ offensive coordinator Brian Daboll for their vacant head coaching position. Once announced, this received a big backlash of complaints deeming the Giants held a fake interview to avoid a fine for violating the Rooney Rule, a 2003 addition to the NFL rulebook.
The Rooney Rule basically allows exposure. It is the model of making sure that the hiring pipeline is diverse and counting on exposure over time to fix the problem. According to the league website, “In 2021, the NFL approved changes requiring every team to interview at least two external minority candidates for open head coaching positions and at least one external minority candidate for a coordinator job. Additionally, at least one minority and/or female candidate must be interviewed for senior level positions (e.g., club president and senior executives).” The Rooney Rule may have been well-intended when enacted in 2003, but it’s only there so that teams can satisfy an interview requirement as they hire the candidate they want. It’s a collective ownership group comprised of no Black representation at the table. One could say that the development of the Rooney Rule has no teeth to it at all. It’s literally a, “Hey, we checked that box.” My position here is that in a league made up of 70% Black athletes, there should absolutely be more people who look like them at top positions. At some point the NFL has to question whether or not the Rooney Rule has helped the actual reason it was put into place or has it only widened inequalities.
The NFL has denied the allegations, stating that the claims are “without merit.” However, on Feb. 5, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to all 32 teams saying that the league’s lack of diversity is “unacceptable.” The quick turnaround has led many, including Flores’ lawyers, to believe that Goodell and the NFL are trying to save face. Just last week the NFL hired the nation’s first Black woman attorney general Loretta Lynch to defend the league against the racial discrimination lawsuit, in which we must allow the court process to do its job. But in closing, I will say: This is not just the time to create more pipelines; it’s simply time to hire more Black coaches and front office executives.
Happy Black History Month!
Devon Davis is a public policy specialist at Bose Public Affairs Group. Contact him at email@example.com.