NFL Owners To Vote On Draft Incentives For Teams To Hire Black Head Coaches And General Managers

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Written by Ann Brown
NFL
NFL owners are expected to vote on upcoming draft incentives for football teams to hire Black head coaches and general managers. Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn follows the second half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The Miami Dolphins is the only professional football team that has an African-American general manager — Chris Grier — and an Afro-Latino head coach — Brian Flores.

In what could be a major push to increase African American representation off the field, NFL team owners are expected to review incentives to hire Black coaches and general managers.

The league’s owners will meet virtually on May 19 and vote on measures to grant competitive advantages to teams that hire nonwhite coaches and general managers, The New York Times reported.

The NFL “wants to take a more aggressive approach to reshaping its highest ranks by using tangible incentives, not penalties, to get teams to hire more nonwhite coaches and general managers in a league in which about 70 percent of the players are African-American,” sources told the Times.

One proposal under review would allow any team that hires a nonwhite head coach to move up six slots from their position in the third round of the NFL. Teams that employ a nonwhite candidate as general manager would move up 10 pegs in the third round of the draft before that executive’s second season with the team. Additionally, a team would get an extra draft pick if one of its minority assistant coaches is hired by another team as a coordinator, head coach, or general manager.

A second proposal would unwind part of the league’s anti-tampering rule, the Times reported. “If approved, assistant coaches would be able to interview for offensive, defensive, and special teams coordinator positions regardless of their contract status. Currently, teams can — and do — block coaches under contract from interviewing with other teams.”

Criticism of the NFL’s lack of Black people in its coaching ranks and executive suites has been growing. The NFL owners more than once have been accused of having a slave owner’s mentality in the sport — on and off the field.

The owners’ Workplace Diversity Committee, with the backing of Commissioner Roger Goodell, hopes to reverse this. The changes, however, must be approved by at least 24 of the 32 owners. 

There is already something called the Rooney Rule in place that requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coach and general manager openings. But the problem with the rule, which was named after former Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney and introduced in 2003, is that it doesn’t guarantee hirings.

“We had a bad system, a broken system, and there were many things that factored into this broken system, and one is policy,” said Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations. “Good policy gets good results and bad policy gets bad results.”

At the upcoming meeting, the committee will also introduce nonvoting amendments to the Rooney Rule compelling teams to consider two external minority candidates for head coach openings instead of one, as is now required. The league and its 32 teams will also have to consider minority or female applicants when looking to fill senior front-office positions.

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, which tracks diversity at major sports leagues, gave the league an “F” grade in its latest report for its lack of hiring of minorities for team executive posts. 

The changes have been brewing for a while. During his state of the league address at Super Bowl LIV in Miami in February, Commissioner Roger Goodell said he recognized a need to increase the opportunities for people of color to be hired as head coaches and general managers, NFL.com reported.

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“Clearly we are not where we want to be on this level,” he said at the time. “It’s clear we need to change. We have already begun discussing those changes, what stages we can take next to determine better outcomes.”

Despite this statement, only one of the five coaching vacancies during the offseason was filled by a Black person or person of color. The need for change became even more obvious. 

“I think that there are a lot of qualified African-American coaches that could be a head coach in this league, and I just pray that we do our due diligence and give these guys an opportunity,” said Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, one of four minority head coaches currently in the NFL, in a CBS Sports Radio interview with Zach Gelb. “There are some qualified applicants and they need an opportunity, and I think this is — out of desperation this is something that has been thrown out there.”