Richard Foster

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The NFL's Diversity Initiative


The NFL recently adopted new some new procedures that were aimed at diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. The well-known “Rooney Rule,” already in existence, was enhanced and changed as well as changes to the anti-tampering program. The goal of these new procedures is to enhance diversity in the coaching and administrative ranks of NFL teams.

According to the website, Statista, African American representation in the NFL looked like this:

  • 58.9% of players are black.
  • 29.6% of NFL assistant coaches are black.
  • 10.7% of Senior Administrators are black.
  • 9.4% of Head Coaches in the NFL are black.
  • 7.1% of Vice Presidents are black.
  • 6.3% of General Managers are black.

What these numbers tell us is that the Rooney Rule was not working, and neither has other diversity initiatives that have been started by the NFL. For a league that has been at the forefront of racial justice issues in America, there seems to be a difference between what they practice and what they preach.

Art Rooney II, chairman of the Workplace Diversity Committee of the NFL and owner of the Pittsburg Steelers, said, “We believe these new policies demonstrate the NFL owners’ commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the NFL.” The question has to be asked, “What type of change will this really make?”

The Anti-tampering policy change is focusing on allowing assistant coaches to interview for a new team when there is a legitimate coordinator position open no matter when the position opens. Currently, during the season and other times during the league calendar, a team can deny requests to interview for other positions and this would change that. There would also be rules specifying what constitutes upper-level management and coordinator positions and requires certain hiring practices, including job descriptions, to be a part of the search.

The Rooney Rule is also being amended. NFL teams will now be required to interview at least two minority candidates from outside of the organization for head coaching positions and at least one for coordinator positions as defined by the new anti-tampering policy. One minority candidate should also be interviewed for General Manager positions as well as Senior Football Operations positions.

Only time will tell what type of effect, if any, these changes will have on diversity in the NFL. What is clear is that what is being done right now does not seem to be working. For a company that prides itself on pushing racial equality as hard as possible, the preaching seems to be a lot louder than the practicing.

This article was originally published on Richard Foster's website.

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