The Rooney Rule is failing — Black coaches are still being discriminated against, according to report
The Washington Post finds that the NFL ‘blocks Black coaches’ in a hiring process that feigns equitability
Forget the Rooney Rule. A new study from The Washington Post shows the NFL’s hiring process sets up Black coaches to fail. The Post found that since 1990, Black coaches have been twice as likely to be fired after a regular season record of .500 or better than their white counterparts.
The Rooney Rule requires league teams to interview at least one candidate of color before filling head coach or senior operations positions, but that rule has carried over to other jobs in the league, as well. This includes general manager, senior executive and front-office positions. From the NFL operations page, “The Rooney Rule encourages hiring best practices to foster and provide opportunity to diverse leadership throughout the NFL.”
But despite the NFL’s development of the Rooney Rule, only three head coaches starting this season are Black: Todd Bowles of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Lovie Smith of the Houston Texans and Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Washington Post wrote that this is the same number of Black coaches as there were in 2003, the year the NFL first adopted the Rooney Rule.
The study found that despite performing about as well as white coaches, Black coaches are far more restricted when it comes to career development. They have had to work longer as mid-level assistants and are more likely to be given interim jobs than a full-time position. Though over 60% of players in the NFL are Black, only 25 of 191 head coaches since 1989 have been Black — including the first Black head coach hired in the NFL that same year, Art Shell.
One coach interviewed was Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who had previously (2010 to 2013) been the head coach for the Minnesota Vikings. After the Bills led the league in total defense and scoring defense last year, as well as his experience with the Vikings, Frazier was a likely candidate for head coach. Despite this, however, he was not hired on.
“It seems like the criteria moves. One week, or one year, it’s ‘We want an offensive-minded guy.’ Another year: ‘We want a guy with a Super Bowl-winning background.’ What’s the criteria?” Frazier said to The Washington Post. “Sometimes it’s because he’s ‘a great leader.’ Sometimes it’s because he ‘came up the same way I came up.’ But the common theme ... is (an owner is going) to hire someone that looks like that owner.”
The Washington Post spoke with several NFL coaches, executives and retirees, but only one team owner agreed to be interviewed: Art Rooney II, whose father the Rooney Rule was named after. The other 31 teams chose not to be interviewed, as did NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, despite Goodell telling the 32 league teams earlier this year that the league’s hiring results were “unacceptable,” according to The Washington Post. But the Post also reports that this memo came four days after Brian Flores, former coach for the Miami Dolphins, began suing the NFL and its teams for racial discrimination.