The NFL, faced with a class action lawsuit from three Black coaches who accuse multiple teams of racial bias in hiring, is trying to address the problem. Or maybe the NFL is trying to create the impression that it’s trying to address the problem.
Regardless, a new approach happens this week at the May ownership meetings in Atlanta.
As explained by Peter King in his Football Morning in America column, roughly 60 minority and female coaches and executives currently employed by the various NFL teams will participate in what’s being called a “Coach and Front-Office Accelerator program.”
On Monday, they’ll attend the regular meetings, in order to witness the manner in which the NFL business operates. Tonight, they’ll mingle with NFL decision makers at a cocktail reception. On Tuesday, the candidates will get a chance to meet with owners and decision makers in 10- to 15-minute increments.
“Is this the answer? No,” NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent told King. “Is it part of a solution? It may be. We need to get people who make the decisions on future head coaches to get to meet [Colts offensive coordinator] Marcus Brady, [Browns defensive coordinator] Joe Woods, [Detroit defensive coordinator] Aaron Glenn, and [Packers defensive coordinator] Jerry Gray, and so many others. This is a new day. It’s not about forcing anyone to hire anyone. It’s about exposing good coaches to those who make the calls.”
It’s a smart approach, because no owner will allow himself or herself to be forced to do anything. While most owners would admit (as they should) that the historical hiring practices demonstrate the clear and obvious existence of a problem, most defer to others when it comes to addressing it. Individually, the owners are still going to hire who they want to hire.
The goal here isn’t to give Black coaches an unfair advantage. It’s to balance out the unfair advantage that has been baked into the system for decades. Owners, as one league-office source told PFT in January, enter a coaching search knowing who they intend to hire roughly 70-80 percent of the time. The goal is to try to get the owners to become familiar, and in turn comfortable, with viable Black candidates before the owners start the process of figuring out who their next head coach will be.
Should, as King asks, the NFL be doing so much for minority candidates and not as much for white ones? Um, yes. The current system doesn’t work. The current system hasn’t worked. The current system has created a significant disparity in opportunities for Black coaches. It has happened because a group of predominantly white owners, when making such a critical hire, become just a little more comfortable with the white candidate. Just enough to make the difference. Far too often.
This isn’t about “replacement theory,” a racist and anti-Semitic tool for instilling fear and hate in in the white community. This is about fairness and equity.
The problem is obvious. It’s been hiding in plain sight for years. The fear of meritorious litigation prompted the league to adopt the Rooney Rule two decades ago. The reality of meritorious litigation (which the league insists is “without merit“) forces the league to make real changes.
Vincent knows the problem. He has candidly admitted to its existence in the past. One potential solution would be to short circuit the typical process for predetermining coaching hires by putting viable minority candidates in front of owners before they eventually, and inevitably, are looking for a new coach.
Speaking of “replacement theory,” the meetings to be held in Atlanta provide an excellent opportunity for the assembled reporters to ask the participants (specifically, the Commissioner and the owners) to comment regarding the fact that the news division of a broadcast partner has become the leading mainstream voice for promoting such a poisonous concept.