Throughout the course of its lengthy history, the NFL has gone to great lengths to remind black folks of our place in its league. Legends like James “Shack” Harris and Jim Brown had to endure all types of bullshit to even get on the field—and I won’t even start with the Colin Kaepernick debacle. But if you really want to see how whiteness works, look no further than the NFL’s head coaching ranks.
Of the league’s 32 teams—a league in which nearly 70 percent of its players actually season their chicken properly—guess how many of its coaches are black?
Every spring, team owners and coaches engage in what’s essentially a family reunion to discuss rules, potential tweaks, and other pertinent matters, and this past March their annual photo looked like this:
If it were taken today, it’d look almost exactly the same since the only black head coaches to be found on the NFL’s billion-dollar plantation are Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Anthony Lynn of the Los Angeles Chargers, and Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins. This despite the league implementing a whole-ass policy, the Rooney Rule, that requires teams to interview minority candidates for its coaching vacancies—which brings me to ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith.
On Tuesday, former Sheriff David Clarke’s BFF tore the NFL a new asshole over this continued charade and the league’s refusal to hire qualified black candidates. But what provoked this particular diatribe? The fact that of four recent head coaching vacancies, not a single one is expected to be filled by a black person.
“We got a problem! This is some BS!” he yelled. “Ain’t no way around this! We’re moving in a reverse direction. Black men are not being treated fairly in the National Football League. Somebody’s gotta say it.”
Smith also expressed his intention to address the matter directly with the league, but the more important question is, at what point will fans hold the league accountable for this inexcusable behavior as well?