The NFL’s rule that at least one minority candidate be interviewed for each head coaching vacancy is the reason there are now a record seven Black head coaches, six more than 16 years ago, says one of the leading experts on sports diversity.
The University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport credited the league’s “Rooney Rule,” adopted in late 2002, for the improvement.
“It’s been really fast-tracked in a big-time way,” says Dr. Richard E. Lapchick, the study’s author. “I’ve always felt [NFL] commissioner [Paul Tagliabue] had high on his priority list to improve the record for diversity, but until then he just didn’t have the leverage.”
The number of Black general managers also increased, from two in 2003 to a record five at the beginning of this season, after the Houston Texans hired Rick Smith.
Others at the position, not always called general manager but with equivalent duties, are the Baltimore Ravens’ Ozzie Newsome, Arizona Cardinals vice president Rod Graves, Martin Mayhew with the Detroit Lions and James Harris, vice president of player personnel with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
There were never more than four minority head coaches throughout the 1990s. And until the Indianapolis Colts hired Tony Dungy in 2002, no Black head coach had ever been fired by a team and rehired elsewhere.
The current Black head coaches are: Dennis Green (Arizona Cardinals), Romeo Crennel (Cleveland Browns), Lovie Smith (Chicago Bears), Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati Bengals), Herman Edwards (Kansas City Chiefs), Tony Dungy (Indianapolis Colts) and Art Shell, who was recently rehired by the Oakland Raiders.
Those changes helped the NFL improve to an overall B+ from a B last year in Lapchick’s annual diversity report card.
“Having talented people from diverse backgrounds has been and will continue to be a priority for our league,” says NFL spokesman Greg Aiello.
However, the report noted that the NFL and other professional men’s sports, with the exception of basketball, continue to lag when it comes to hiring women. The report card did not specifically issue a grade for gender because researchers were missing information from the NFL head office, Lapchick says, but it likely wouldn’t have improved much over last year’s D+.
The NFL does have a female president/CEO, Amy Trask of the Raiders, which is a rarity across pro sports, Lapchick says.
Lapchick reports on diversity in all of the major professional sports and the NCAA.
— Associated Press
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