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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Football needs more Black head coaches


Racial disparities in the NFL

The Rooney Rule, an NFL league policy instituted in 2002 that mandates that teams interview at least one minority candidate for a head coaching vacancy, has proven over its nearly 20–year history to be more of a formality than difference-maker. In a league where 70% of the players are Black, only one of the seven head coaching vacancies this offseason was filled by a Black coach. 

Heading into the 2021 season, only three out of 32 head coaches are Black. 

This is especially disappointing considering that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the 2021 Super Bowl Champions, employ one of the most racially diverse coaching staffs in the NFL. The Buccaneers’ offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, special teams coach and assistant coach are all Black men, and their assistant strength and conditioning coach is a Black woman. In a league in which the assistant coaches of the most successful teams are generally pinpointed as top head coaching candidates, as a group the Buccaneers’ assistants accumulated a total of one interview for a head coaching position. 

Eric Bieniemy, the Black offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs, interviewed for seven head coaching positions this offseason. Despite the Chiefs’ appearances in the last two Super Bowls and Pro Football Focus rating their offense as the best in the NFL, Bieniemy was not hired by a team. Some sports media outlets report that Bieniemy interviewed poorly. However, the outcomes of his interviews could have resulted from racial discrimination in interviewing practices.

In 2003, the Dallas Cowboys had a head coaching vacancy. Jerry Jones, the team’s owner, interviewed the eventual hire, Bill Parcells, in two separate interviews that spanned more than 11 hours cumulatively. On the other hand, Jones opted to interview a Black candidate, Dennis Green, over the phone. In 2018, Oakland Raiders Owner Mark Davis hired current head coach Jon Gruden in 2018 without thoroughly considering enough Black candidates. 

The Fritz Pollard Alliance, which promotes diversity in NFL coaching, said that the two Black candidates who interviewed did not get the chance to compete for the first offer. Even though Jones and Davis obliged by the Rooney Rule by interviewing candidates of color, white candidates were given favorable interview circumstances in both cases.

In May 2020, on the heels of social and racial activism in the U.S., the NFL expanded the Rooney Rule to mandate that teams must interview at least one minority candidate for all senior football operations jobs. Teams must interview two minority candidates for head coaching vacancies, at least one minority candidate for any coordinator, general manager and senior football operations positions and minority and/or female applicants for senior-level positions, including club president jobs. This goes beyond the previous requirement, which only applied to head coaching vacancies.

Despite the enhancements to the Rooney Rule, racial consciousness does not appear to be at the forefront of NFL hiring practices. Within the coaching staff that Nick Sirianni assembled when he became the Eagles head coach in January, no Black coaches occupy the two coaching roles often considered second in command behind the head coach: the offensive and defensive coordinators. In fact, the Eagles have not had a full time Black head coach, general manager, offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator in the last 20 years. 

In some instances, teams not only ignore racially diverse hiring, but dismiss past racist actions of candidates they look to hire. The Jacksonville Jaguars recently hired Chris Doyle, a former strength coach at the University of Iowa who was accused by more than a dozen former players of discrimination and the perpetuation of racial and cultural biases.

The Rooney Rule will never be enough to make real change, no rule or mandate ever will. The change has to come from within. Until team owners want to advocate for anti-racism and engage in racially diverse hiring practices, the NFL will find itself in a whitewash.

The Fritz Pollard Alliance, named after the first Black head coach in the NFL, was formed after research published by civil rights lawyers Cyrus Mehri and Johnnie L. Cochran Jr found that Black coaches were systematically disadvantaged in pursuing head coaching positions. It works to encourage the adoption of rules that champion diversity within the NFL, educates NFL team owners and managers about available minority candidates for team staff positions and advocates for the promotion of minority candidates on NFL team staff hierarchy through public education and communication with team and league ownership and management. 

Its website,, provides additional information on how the organization fosters diversity in the NFL and provides educational resources to its members.


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