There was a time when some thought the Fritz Pollard Alliance failed to show sufficient zeal regarding the league’s hiring practices. Those days definitely have ended.
Now led by former NFL G.M. and league executive Rod Graves, who last week called the situation “shameful,” the group issued a strong and clear statement on Monday attacking the absence of minority coaches and General Managers.
“We were painfully reminded through this past hiring cycle that attaining diverse leadership in the NFL can only happen through the willful actions of the team owners and decision makers,” the statement begins. “True devotion to diversity starts with a recognition of the profound good that it can bring to the Game. It embraces a belief that the benefactors who contribute to the business of football should also share in the benefits. It embraces a core belief that the Game should be accessible at every level for those that possess the skills and who have the resources to meet their aspirations.
“The abysmal record of hiring people of color in high ranking levels of NFL management is a reminder of the dark periods of civil rights history. In 100 years of professional football, the NFL has moved from Fritz Pollard as its first African-American Head Coach in 1921 to four Head Coaches of color in 2020. The League has only one African-American General Manager. There are no African-American club presidents.”
The statement points out that, while players of color make up 70.1 percent of the league’s rosters and that nearly a third of all assistant coaches are minorities, a dramatically lower percentage of minorities are employed as coaches, General Managers, and team presidents.
“These statistics bear out the glass ceiling faced by coaches and front office executives of color as they try to move up the ladder,” the statement asserts.
“We are in a battle for social justice,” the Fritz Pollard Alliance says in its statement. “The current system of hiring and promoting talent into the upper levels of NFL management is a flawed system. We cannot expect fairness if business remains status quo. Our focus must shift from counting emblematic victories each year to calling for measurable initiatives that support sustainable progress.
“We believe that Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to be on the side of progress. We recognize there are NFL teams that embrace diversity of leadership as good for the Game.
“The Fritz Pollard Alliance is calling on the National Football League, Owners and Club leaders to develop specific diversity action plans to improve diversity in all aspects of management. Our goal is to inspire better results and to work with all NFL stakeholders to come up with meaningful solutions.”
By far, it’s the strongest statement made by the Fritz Pollard Alliance in the generation since the Rooney Rule was promulgated. Whether it sparks change depends on how the NFL reacts to it. How the NFL reacts to it depends in large part on how fans and media react to it.