Just when I think that things in the NFL are getting good and that diversity is truly a core component of their operation I have noticed how a massive loophole is being exploited. I think that it is essential for a sport that benefits so much from the hard work of black athletes also give black coaches a shot at the big time. To ensure that teams give black coaches a shot at head coaching jobs the Rooney Rule was started in 2003. This rule states that whenever a head coaching job or other top position is available that the team must interview a black candidate.
Let me start here, as I always want to take issue with affirmative action of any sort. The realistic side of me does not care very much for affirmative action. If I were a white person and I saw that another person was getting an advantage due to the color of their skin I would be upset. In a perfect world all people would be judged and measured on an even playing field and only their credentials are into consideration. However the pragmatic side of me loves affirmative action and realizes that for black folk things haven’t been fair and if we need to have things titled in our favor to make things even, then so be it. In all honesty affirmative action isn’t anything new, it began the moment the first slaves had their shackles taken off and were told that they were free. Ever since then white folk have always gotten the nod across the board, both knowingly and unknowingly through the networking abilities whites had with each other (he who has the power keeps the power, and white folk had the power).
The Rooney Rule in the NFL barely even qualifies as affirmative action as nowhere does it stipulate that they actually increase the diversity of the league’s coaching staff, all they need to do is consider it. The sad part is that the owners of the team don’t even have to consider hiring a black coach at all. If the owner has a coach he really has his eye on they will often forget about the Rooney Rule even existing and go ahead and hurry up the hiring process. All we need to do is look back to 2003 and remember the hiring of white coach Steve Mariucci by the Detroit Lions. The Lions determined to shake up their program brought in Mariucci to become their head coach, and in the process they failed to interview any black candidates claiming that none could be found as the candidates knew they didn’t stand a chance. For this clear violation of the Rooney Rule the NFL fined the Detroit Lions $200,000. That’s it, $200,000. Sure this may sound like a lot of money to you and me but the Lions were probably able to recoup their losses in one hour’s worth of beer sales.
Now the owners are back at it again. Both the Seattle Seahawks and the Washington Redskins have announced new head coaches in Pete Carroll and Mike Shanahann respectively. Both of these teams have found a very clever way of circumventing the Rooney Rule and rendering it useless. All the rule states is that you interview a black candidate; nowhere does it say you have to seriously consider that candidate. Using this loophole both teams brought in two black candidates with no real intentions of hiring them at all. In my opinion that is a sham at best and if this is the way rule is going to work out then we might as well get rid of it to save the black candidates time and disappointment. Sure at least getting a black prospect an interview is a solid improvement over just being ignored but simply put the rule does not do enough.
So here is what I propose to the NFL. First off in the case such as the Detroit Lions, let’s start handing out some real fines, $200,000 isn’t going to cut it, let’s start talking in millions and draft picks. Does that amount sound severe? You bet your ass it is and they will think twice about breaking the rule. Now about this loophole of just interviewing a black candidate to satisfy the rule, I would like to see some financial incentives for teams hiring black coaches to multi-year deals. Sure Mike Shanahann sounds like a great deal but perhaps if a team is compensated for giving a black coach a chance at the job they may think twice. Finally I think the NFL needs to set a firm diversity goal in terms of its head coaching positions. In a league where nearly 70% of the players a black it’s a damn shame that only 19% of head coaches are black.