The NFL Plans to Reexamine the Rooney Rule, Potentially Opening the Door to Finally Hire Black Head Coaches

Head coach Anthony Lynn of the Los Angeles Chargers looks on from the sideline during the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Dignity Health Sports Park October 13, 2019 in Carson, California.
Head coach Anthony Lynn of the Los Angeles Chargers looks on from the sideline during the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Dignity Health Sports Park October 13, 2019 in Carson, California.
Photo: Denis Poroy (Getty Images)

White people love Seinfeld.

They also love paddleboarding, guitar solos, and pretending to give a shit about diversity and inclusion.


Take, for instance, serial megalomaniac Mark Zuckerberg, who in 2017 told a room full of tech-savvy HBCU students that, “If you just really focus on doing the best you can, then there’s a lot of opportunity out there”—which sounds all well and good until you remember that his own company, some insignificant startup called Facebook, employs over 43,000 people yet somehow boasts a black workforce of less than 5 percent. Did I mention that a mere 1 percent of technical roles and 2 percent of leadership roles are helmed by black folks too? No? Oh.

So much for opportunity.

In a similar vein, we have the NFL, who I previously spoke glowingly about here:

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.

In 2003, the NFL implemented the Rooney Rule in a valiant attempt to disguise the “slave mentality” and discriminatory behavior of its bigoted owners. Named after former Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney—who actually hired a black coach—it requires teams to interview minority candidates for its vacant head coaching and general manager positions. Which begs the question: If teams are required to interview black candidates, then why aren’t they being hired? Because they’re being treated like stipulations instead of viable applicants.

Ask Ray Sherman, who suffered the indignity of being interviewed twice for head coaching positions he knew he didn’t have a chance in hell of being hired for. In 2010, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wanted to promote his offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to head coach, but knew the Rooney Rule prevented him from doing so. Soooooo what did he do? “Talk to” Sherman, the Cowboys’ receiving coach at the time, to satisfy the Rooney Rule…then fire him.

Sherman then went on to provide the same complimentary service to the Tennessee Titans so they could promote their offensive line coach, Mike Munchak.

And now, a decade later, after making waves yet again for failing to fill any of its recent head coaching vacancies with a single black person, the league is apparently looking to reexamine how the Rooney Rule is being enforced.


“I think where we are right now, is not where we want to be, not where we need to be,” Art Rooney II, current owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, told the NFL Network. “We need to take a step back and look at what’s happening with our hiring processes. The first thing we’ll do as part of our diversity committee is really review this past season’s hiring cycle and make sure we understand what went on and talk to the people involved both on the owner’s side, management’s side as well as the people that were interviewed.”

He added, “The thing I think we have to look at is back when the Rooney Rule was passed and put in effect in 2003, there was a period there where we did see an increase in minority hiring at the head coaching position. And I think over a period of time there were 10 or 12 minority coaches hired. Since then that trend seems to reverse itself, particularly in the last few years. We need to study what’s going on and understand better what’s going on and really decide how we improve the situation.”


You think?

The Fritz Pollard Alliance, an organization that advocates for minority representation within the NFL, called the league’s propensity for this type of racist bullshit a “blemish on the National Football League” in a statement released on Monday:

“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 statement read. “The League has only one African-American General Manager. There are no African-American club presidents.”


The statement continued, “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, 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.”

Do I expect any significant changes to come out of this reexamination? Nope. But if an adjustment to the Rooney Rule leads to more black hirings, then I’m all for it.

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for ya'll to stop putting sugar in grits.


If just about every sports news outlet can speculate with usual accuracy who will land a head coaching job before said actual job opens or any candidates interviewed, then the Rooney Rule has no teeth and serves no purpose. It is just a check box.