As it turns out, John Wooten isn’t as “livid” as he first thought. The Browns did indeed interview a minority candidate for their General Manager job. The team just failed to communicate with the league the fact that they talked to former Bills G.M. Doug Whaley (pictured) before hiring John Dorsey, a requirement of the Rooney Rule.
In other words, the Browns botched the paperwork. Sound familiar?
“For whatever reason, [Jimmy] Haslam or whoever is running their operation there did not report that they had interviewed a minority candidate before they announced that they had signed John Dorsey,” Wooten, the chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, told PFT on Friday. “That threw the whole thing into question, because everybody was asking, ‘Who did they interview?’ Well, we checked with the league, and the league said it had not received any information on who they interviewed or anyone that they intended to interview. Under league rules, the fact that Doug Whaley and John Dorsey were not in the league, they could in fact talk to those guys, but you still have to report you talked to Doug Whaley, and they didn’t do that.
“I got a phone call last night from somebody who said Jimmy Haslam had called him saying I was very upset. He’s absolutely right. I was upset, because when I checked with the league office they said they had not received any information on who the Browns had interviewed at all.”
Haslam defended the process during a press conference to introduce Dorsey, saying the Browns “absolutely” complied. The Browns owner added he was “disappointed” with Wooten’s comments.
Wooten said he asked Cyrus Mehri to issue a complaint with the league. Mehri, a civil rights lawyer who works with the Fritz Pollard Alliance, was instrumental in getting the NFL to adopt the Rooney Rule in 2003.
“That’s where we are,” said Wooten, a fifth-round draft pick of the Browns in 1959 who played nine seasons in Cleveland. “We’re still waiting for the league to clear this up. We’ve put it on their table. It’s their responsibility. It’s the team’s responsibility to tell the league, and the league gets it to us. We’ll let the league decide what they want to do there [as far as any punishment].”
An NFL spokesman said the league is “satisfied the club met the Rooney Rule.”