Apparent Rooney Rule loophole doesn’t exist

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More than a decade ago, the NFL promulgated the Rooney Rule, which requires at least one minority candidate to be interviewed for every head-coaching vacancy.  On Monday, news that the Falcons had interviewed special-teams coordinator Keith Armstrong caused some (e.g., us) to conclude that the Falcons had officially complied with the Rooney Rule, and that they could now hire anyone to replace Mike Smith.

But John Wooten, the executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, told D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that compliance occurs when a team simply requests permission to interview a minority coach under contract with a team currently in the playoffs.  Wooten said that the Falcons previously had complied with the rule by asking to interview Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.

If accurate, this creates a loophole that could easily be exploited, and abused.  To comply with the Rooney Rule, a team would simply have to find a minority coach on any of the 12 (14 in 2015, most likely) teams that qualified for the playoffs, ask to interview him, and then go ahead and hire whichever white candidate they have in mind.

Per multiple sources, neither the league office nor the Falcons believe that Wooten’s interpretation is accurate.  Requesting permission to interview a minority coach who isn’t yet available to be interviewed does not constitute compliance with the Rooney Rule.  Instead, a face-to-face interview must occur.

If Wooten’s interpretation were correct, former Lions G.M. Matt Millen wouldn’t have been fined $500,000 a dozen years ago for failing to comply with the Rooney Rule was Steve Mariucci was hired.  Millen claimed that he invited minority candidates to interview for the job, but they declined.  Under the logic articulated by Wooten to Ledbetter, that should have been enough.

It wasn’t then, and it isn’t now.  Either way, it doesn’t matter.  The Falcons complied on Monday, by interviewing Armstrong.  Now, they’re free to make a hire.  And that hire could be former Jets coach Rex Ryan.

51 responses to “Apparent Rooney Rule loophole doesn’t exist

  1. Just get rid of the rule already.

    It’s more insulting to minorities at this point than helpful.

  2. Irony; an article supporting the Rooney Rule while at the same time pointing out how absurd and outdated it is. I wonder what it felt like to be Armstrong and be brought in for some token interview just because of the color of his skin and not because he was seriously being considered for the position? How can you make a man feel like any less of a man? I just don’t know. I feel badly for this guy.

    If anything, this offseason has proven that the Rooney Rule needs to go. We have seen numerous minorities asked to interview for almost every single open HC gig and it had nothing to do with the color of their skin. The bottom line is, owners want money. They get money by winning and being relevant. You win and become relevant by having a guy in charge that knows what he’s doing. If that guy is purple, orange, pink or some variation, he get’s hired. PERIOD!

  3. It shouldn’t be that hard to give an interview to a minority candidate. There should be plenty in the ranks of coaches to give an interview. It doesn’t set up a quota or anything.

  4. I think the “Rooney Rule,” if you’re going to have one, would have a greater impact and benefit at the coordinator level. That said, it is time to get rid of this quickly-antiquated rule.

  5. The Rooney Rule was well intentioned and I’ve been an advocate of it for years, but I think it’s run it’s course. Most teams want to win…no matter the color of the coach or GM. Does that mean there’s no racism in some hiring practices? NOPE..not that naive, but just like the resistance to draft black quarterbacks, coaches like Tomlin, Dungy, Caldwell and others have proven their worth and that the best candidate should get the job regardless of skin color. Then again, I’m a self-identified idiot and its entirely possible that without the rule, we’ll go back to the same white retreads every year.

  6. The Detroit situation showed an obvious problem with the rule: Marty Mornhinweg wouldn’t have been fired, except for Mariucci coming available. Forcing the team to interview other people when it was clear that there was just one candidate was just stupid.

  7. The spirit of the rule is well meaning. But with most rules of this type, if the spirit isn’t embraced by the organizations to which the rule applies, ways to circumvent the rules will be fiund.

    The “good ol’ boys system” is alive & well in the NFL.

  8. I’d be insulted if I was being brought in for a joke of an interview with a business that has no intentions of hiring me regardless of how well the interview went.

  9. What happens if minority candidates DO decline to sit for an interview as Millen said? Does the team just move on without a head coach? One of the worst rules in the NFL?

  10. Kinda funny how everyone complains about the Rooney Rule when statistics show that the hiring of black head coaches has increased since it was created back in 2003.

    The rule doesn’t MAKE you hire non-white head coaches.

  11. This rule is stupid. The owner can simply say “congratulations, you are indeed black” during the face-to-face interview, offer some snacks or a dinner, ask a dumb irrelevant question or two and then end the meeting and put a check mark in the box. It doesn’t give minority candidates anything tangible. It just forces an owner to spend a few minutes with a person who happens to be of a minority race. It actually lessens their humanity. But, at least the white guilt liberals and the race profiteers get to feel better about themselves. Can’t we just let individual merit speak for itself?

  12. hire the best coach. interview the best coaches. if you’re a good coach; you’ll get hired no matter your race.

    /rant
    we’ve got a black president; literally the highest position anyone american can hold, and yet they still have affirmative action and this stupid rules in the books.
    /rant

  13. It’s such an idiotic rule. This isn’t the 1960’s anymore. There have been superbowl winning coaches and there have been failure coaches that were black.

    I find it highly hypocritical that this “rule” only applies to coaches and not to players on the field.

    I wonder why?

  14. I wonder how many interviews that were held simply to comply with the “Rooney Rule”, went so well that the candidate ended up getting the job? We have no way of nowing that because the teams are surely not going to admit that their original intention was merely to comply with the rule. I would be willing to bet it has happened at least once, if not more. I think the rule still has merit, only because there are still old white men runing the teams. (qualifier, I am a 65 yr old white man myself) I am not accusing them of racism, just merely saying that a lot of minority candidates that get interviews and get hired wouldn’t have normally been on the radar to begin with, if not for the rule.

  15. The Rooney rule is ridiculous. What isn’t there a Rooney rule for Asians, or Mexicans, or…

  16. The Rooney rule is still a useful tool even if the spirit of the rule is easily circumvented. That is how Mike Tomlin became the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers when Russ Grimm was the prohibitive in-house favorite. He basically blew the Rooney’s doors off, without any coordinator experience.

  17. The Rooney Rule….trying to eliminate discrimination by using skin color as a primary job qualification. Something just seems off here.

  18. pooflingingmonkey says: Jan 6, 2015 4:14 PM

    The Rooney rule is ridiculous. What isn’t there a Rooney rule for Asians, or Mexicans, or…

    ********
    Teams must interview a minority candidate. That covers it.

  19. I personally would hope that the teams would be looking for the best coaching candidate and not be worried about race anyways.

  20. Does asking to interview Ron Rivera count to satisfy the Rooney Rule?

    How about Barry Alvarez?

    Norm Chao?

    Jim Plunkett?

    Forcing a team to interview a person because of their race is absurd, demeaning and racist.

    Should we now also have a Rooney rule for cornerbacks? Should each team have to draft a white corner to meet some diversity targets? I mean we don’t have any white corners in the NFL. That must be caused by racism.

    We need more Jason Sehorns!

  21. I promise that they don’t draft black anything at any position in the interest of being politically correct, or as a sign of racial progress. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  22. The Rooney Rule exists to force general managers to talk to at least one minority candidate. It doesn’t establish a hiring quota. The idea is that, as with most of us, general managers are insulated; many of them are former players, their acquaintances are former players, and the coaching candidates they’re familiar with are former players. Maybe this makes me a racist, too, but I suspect white NFL players tend to hang with other white NFL players and black players with other black players. The Rooney Rule gets those white GMs out of their comfort zones and makes them listen to black guys they may not have conversed with in the past. Who they hire after that is their business, but at least they’ve been exposed to another perspective.

  23. Remember when Seattle wanted Pete Carroll and everyone knew it, but they had to backtrack and try to interview a minority? Leslie Frazier and a few other flat out turned them down even when Seattle execs offered to fly out to them because they knew it was just an attempt to comply with the Rooney rule. Seattle never actually interviewed a minority even though they tried like 7 times and no one batted an eye. Teams will hire who they think will help them win, regardless of race. Axe the rule.

  24. Stupid rule anyway. If a team believes a specific black player is a better choice for their team than a specific white player, they will draft the black player. If a team believes a specific black coach is the best choice for their team, they will hire him.

  25. JMO, but with the way the 24/7 internet world we live in reports everything no matter how exciting or mundane I don’t think the league needs to keep this rule. I think it’d become incredibly apparent, incredibly fast if “the Klan” was running a team and that team would be just as quickly “corrected” by the league as a whole because it would threaten league revenue and everyone knows that league revenue is still numbers 1-9 of the ten most important things the league cares about. The tenth is players but that’s only because they still haven’t figured out how to make the public buy into the idea that simulated Madden seasons would be just as exciting to watch as actual football. Or more accurately they themselves are not yet convinced they could get fans to pay the same to watch these simulations as they currently do the real games.

  26. onemorant says:

    How is “the Rooney Rule” racism? Somebody please explain this to me.

    I would say that discrimination is a better word than racism in this case (these words are often mistakenly used interchangeably.) The problem is that in trying to eliminate discrimination based on skin color or race, the rule specifically says to use race as a qualifier. This way of thinking just continues the segregation of race. The intent should be to NOT look at race as a qualifier, so why do use race that way?

  27. The Rooney Rule is racism because it forces team ownership to interview at least 1 candidate that is a minority. Let that settle in a little bit. Assume the best coach with the most ironclad credentials becomes available and is Caucasian. The team is forbidden to hire that coach if they didn’t interview another candidate that specifically is in the minority of race/ethnic background. In this scenario, the team “finds a guy” conducts an “interview” and hires the guy they want.

    To force a teams hand in a decision making process that is oriented on race, is racism. This is why the Supreme Court ruled against affirmative action in colleges that used a ranking system for acceptance crediting “minorities” with more weight in their acceptance calculations. In that scenario, you have better qualified students being rejected, while less qualified students are accepted due to their skin color.

    Lets apply these scenarios to real life.

    Do you want a doctor because he is Indian? Or do you want the best doctor qualified to treat your disease?

    How about a pilot flying your commercial plane. Most qualified, or a minority that may or may not be up to par?

    In sports, do you want the best coach available, or a guy that meets a minority demographic?

    Let’s go with the guy best qualified for the job, regardless of race. End racism, end the Rooney Rule, end affirmative action.

  28. The thing is that the rule doesn’t make race a qualifier. It requires teams to interview one minority candidate, who by the way is qualified. In a league where the vast majority of the owners a white, and until recently older. It is just a vehicle to allow others an opportunity to penetrate an antiquated system. Most people tend to relate to people that look like them, its just a chance for the owners to sit in front of somebody that looks different at length. I don’t understand the outrage for requiring one interview out of the dozens teams will conduct to land a coach. Unless, some of y’all are disgruntled coaches that feel that you’re being overlooked because of it.

  29. ipeefreelyagain says:
    Jan 6, 2015 5:31 PM
    The Rooney Rule is racism because it forces team ownership to interview at least 1 candidate that is a minority. Let that settle in a little bit. Assume the best coach with the most ironclad credentials becomes available and is Caucasian. The team is forbidden to hire that coach if they didn’t interview another candidate that specifically is in the minority of race/ethnic background. In this scenario, the team “finds a guy” conducts an “interview” and hires the guy they want.

    To force a teams hand in a decision making process that is oriented on race, is racism. This is why the Supreme Court ruled against affirmative action in colleges that used a ranking system for acceptance crediting “minorities” with more weight in their acceptance calculations. In that scenario, you have better qualified students being rejected, while less qualified students are accepted due to their skin color.

    Lets apply these scenarios to real life.

    Do you want a doctor because he is Indian? Or do you want the best doctor qualified to treat your disease?

    How about a pilot flying your commercial plane. Most qualified, or a minority that may or may not be up to par?

    In sports, do you want the best coach available, or a guy that meets a minority demographic?

    Let’s go with the guy best qualified for the job, regardless of race. End racism, end the Rooney Rule, end affirmative action.

    This logic falls short in two areas: 1.) you’re making the assumption that the best qualified person is always white. 2.) They’re only REQUIRED to interview a minority, so in the scenario that you presented it happens all of the time. In those cases the owners just go through the motions to comply and still hire their guy. I swear that in your post that you make best qualified and minority mutually exclusive.

  30. African Americans are used to this. The white man is just weening them off slowly. Very slowly.

  31. It’s not 1945. Potential coaches should feel more offended that there is such a rule in place. Hire the guy you feel is best, white, black, yellow. It’s 2015 We are all Americans.

  32. This rule is so dumb…why does it only apply to coaching and not GM’s??? As a Mexican-American, I hate being singled out because of the color of my skin. The best candidates should be interviewed and hired…done.

  33. The “rule” was put into play simply to make the NFL brass look like they were upstanding citizens with a keen ear toward social issues and making things more fair.

    This charade went on for years until these guys showed their true colors and personas during the time leading up to the start of this season just past. All of their brilliant shining armour always on display to the public, was shown to be rusty tin with maggots inside.

    In that light and considering the rule, when you think about it, what happens if one of the owners, (because this is who we are really talking about the rule applying to ultimately), “breaks” the rule? Why did they create the ease of ignoring the rule by just requesting an interview as the only requirement?

    They obviously knew this when they wrote the rule. It didn’t just accidentally get in the language of the rule. So the rule is exposed to be another big sham created by the boys club who expect everyone to accept the integrity of people who have little to none to begin with. Just lots of money that in a lot of cases came down from daddy along with the team.

  34. The spirit and intent of the Rooney Rule is to ensure that minorities are given a fair shot. The NFL is a very small community of buddies who hire their buddies. It is harder than normal for someone new to break in.

    The “rule” simply asks the guys hiring to give a minority a chance. If they are looking for a loophole they will find it anyway.

    Hard to impose free will. It is more a mindset that it is trying to instil.

  35. The rule is discriminatory in its intent and in its application. If the goal is to ensure racial diversity among applicants then why discriminate at all? I disagree with the rule but if it must be done why not just ensure candidates of multiple races are involved in the process? Many people believe that is the point but the reality is that it is not. Example: If a team wants to hire a white candidate, they must wait and at least interview a minority candidate or face penalties. If a team wants to hire a minority candidate, no interview is required at all. They can hire the guy they want with no issues. The white candidate is never given that same opportunity simply because he is white.

    Racial issues will never go away because the people who say they want equality always do the same thing. The first thing they do when trying to advocate racial equality is divide everybody into separate racial demographic boxes so they can use those statistics to support their agenda.

  36. loophole? loophole? you want a loophole?

    every team has a grounds crew …. just pick one of the minorities on the crew and do an interview … every one of them believes they would be a better coach than the previous one …

    Rooney rule satisfied …

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