The NFL (National Football League) is currently reviewing a new policy that would give draft incentives to teams that hire minority head coaches. The proposed policy change also applies to teams that hire minorities for high-level football positions, such as general managers. There are currently three minority head coaches in the NFL out of 32 teams. They include Mike Tomlin, Anthony Lynn, and Ron Rivera. The new policy change seeks to increase that number in the spirit of the Rooney Rule.
Legacy of Art and Dan Rooney
To understand the NFL’s proposed policy change, an understanding of the Rooney Rule is needed. Art Rooney owned the Pittsburgh Steelers up until his death in 1988. The Rooney Family still owns the franchise. Art’s son, Dan, was a politician and executive in private industry. He launched an inquiry to discover why “minority” head coaches and general managers were so rare in the NFL, despite black players making up around 70% of the league.
Dan Rooney’s inquiry revealed that black coaches were more likely to get fired and less likely to get hired – despite having a higher winning percentage than their white counterparts. The study prompted the NFL to create the “Rooney Rule.” The rule states that each of the 32 NFL teams must interview a minority candidate for open high-level positions off the field – including head coach and general manager.
It doesn’t appear that the Rooney Rule is working very well. Or at least, not quite as expected. Therefore, the NFL is possibly incorporating a new policy to bolster the number of minorities in high-level, off-field positions.
According to NFL.com’s insider report:
If a team hires a minority head coach, that team, in the Draft preceding the coach’s second season, would move up six spots from where it is slotted to pick in the third round. A team would jump ten spots under the same scenario for hiring a person of color as its primary football executive, a position more commonly known as general manager.
If a team were to fill both positions with diverse candidates in the same year, that club could jump 16 spots — six for the coach, 10 for the GM — and potentially move from the top of the third round to the middle of the second round. Another incentive: a team’s fourth-round pick would climb five spots in the Draft preceding the coach’s or GM’s third year if he is still with the team. That is considered significant because Steve Wilks and Vance Joseph, two of the four African-American head coaches hired since 2017, were fired after one and two seasons, respectively.
This means that NFL teams will have advantages when it comes to draft picks simply for hiring (and maintaining) minority head coaches and general managers. Which is most certainly a form of Affirmative Action. Although there are no specific quotas teams must make, there are rewards if teams meet certain quotas.
Ruins Morale of Potential Head Coaches
Potential minority head coaches and/or general managers may or may not like the proposed changes. On one hand, it’s good that a person who wants a job is able to be interviewed for said job. On the other hand, it’s not a good thing because the interviewee may think the only reason why they have been called up is because of their ethnicity.
In theory, the NFL is the purest form of a meritocracy. At least, on the field. It seems pretty simple. Either a player is good or he is not good. Good players do well and bad players do not do well. Politics and favoritism should not necessarily be a thing, in this space. That is unless a person has off-the-field problems that interfere with his daily walking life. Aside from that, if you’re good enough, you get the job.
Behind The Curtain
Off the field is a beast of a different nature. Politics do come into play. Sometimes it’s about who knows who. With the Rooney Rule and the proposed policy change, it will be about draft picks and abiding by guidelines that the NFL sets. Public Relations also become important here, because teams don’t want to appear as racist or insensitive. That was a visible thing during some of the race riots of the past few years. Not to mention the Kaepernick kneeling drama.
It”s a shame that the NFL would resort to a thing like this but it doesn’t come as a surprise. Just like it wasn’t a surprise when the rapper Jay-Z decided to work for the NFL after publicly trashing them and defending Kapernick.
But they are certainly treading in dangerous waters. Matter of fact, they are walking a tight rope with no balancing pole over the top of the water. The balancing act the NFL is trying to play is attempting to please hardcore fans while maintaining an image of armor without damage. One false move, they will be in the water without a raft to safety.
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