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Volume 26 No. 206
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Lack Of Coaching Diversity Still Top Of Mind In NFL Circles

The Dolphins' Brian Flores is one of four current minority NFL head coaches
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The Dolphins' Brian Flores is one of four current minority NFL head coaches
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The Dolphins' Brian Flores is one of four current minority NFL head coaches
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The NFL's lack of diversity among coaches and front office execs is a "big problem, and it traces right to the top of the power structure," according to Stephen Edelson of the ASBURY PARK PRESS. Until there are "more minorities as stakeholders in upper management within franchises, it's going to be tough to make significant changes on the sideline." Change in this regard "has to start with the individual organizations placing increased emphasis on developing talent and providing paths for advancement within the front office structure." The Rooney Rule "clearly needs more teeth." Any conversation on the subject "needs to start with the fact that there are zero black owners in the NFL," nor are there "any black team presidents in the league" (ASBURY PARK PRESS, 1/9). USA TODAY's Nancy Armour writes the Rooney Rule will be "useless until NFL owners acknowledge the real problem ... themselves." League officials can "compile all the lists they want, consult every diversity expert there is and even browbeat owners into interviewing minority coaching candidates." But until the owners "admit they're uncomfortable with, or flat-out don't want, men of color as the faces of their franchises, nothing is ever going to change." Since the Rooney Rule's inception in '03, teams have "done little more than pay lip service" to it (USA TODAY, 1/9).

DOES ROONEY RULE NEED TWEAKING? YAHOO SPORTS' Terez Paylor wrote once again, the "most embarrassing issue concerning the NFL has taken center stage." It was "striking to see the visceral reaction of many pundits and former players on social media" to this latest round of coaching hires. In a league that is 70% black, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy's "inability to get a head coaching job, despite all his positives, is baffling to many." It is a "fate that has befallen far too many black assistants in this league, despite the large swath of interview opportunities that take place because of the Rooney Rule." The fact that there is "another disappointing hiring cycle for African American coaches" has led some to "ponder whether the rule needs to be revisited or tweaked." Paylor: "But it's more important to remember that the actual problem isn't the rule -- the problem is the people doing the hiring, starting with ownership" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/8). FS1's Jason Whitlock said, “Sports media people whining and complaining on behalf of black coaches are actually doing black coaches a disservice. They’re paining these men as victims with a sense of entitlement and no understanding of the greater culture of football” (“Speak for Yourself,” FS1, 1/8).

CHANGE STARTS AT THE TOP: 49ers CB Richard Sherman said of the situation, "The owners still look a certain way, they still come from a very old background, so it's going to be this way until things change. No matter how much people say about it, oh, 'Rooney Rule, you've got to interview these guys,' the coaches will still look a certain way for the most part." Sherman mentioned Bieniemy and former Bears coach Lovie Smith specifically as deserving candidates, saying, "Those guys aren't even getting a look and the ones that are getting a look are just getting it so they can check the Rooney Rule box off" (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 1/9). FS1's Shannon Sharpe said of how the NFL can improve diversity hiring, "Until you get ownership that actually wants to put some substance to this, this is what you're going to get. Until leadership gets more diverse, you're not going to have a more diverse hiring background." FS1's Skip Bayless said, "The league actually got an A+ for hiring, of color, assistant coaches. ... It got a D+ for hiring head coaches of color. A+ assistants, D+ head coaches, there's a big disconnect there." On who is responsible, Bayless said, "I can't condemn the National Football League for this. I can't blame the commissioner for this. ... This comes down to individual owners' decisions" ("Undisputed," FS1, 1/8). CBSSN’s Jim Rome said this is “not a league problem, it’s an ownership problem” (“The Jim Rome Show,” CBSSN, 1/8).