The NFL announced several initiatives from the Annual League Meeting on Monday that are aimed at increasing and improving diversity across the league.
According to ESPN’s Brooke Pryor, there have been enhancements to the Rooney Rule, which was created to help increase diversity hiring. Along with interviewing a minority candidate, NFL teams will also have to interview a woman for positions that are applicable to the Rooney Rule. Zoom interviews will no longer suffice as it relates to interviews for head coaching positions, another change to the Rooney Rule. The NFL‘s workplace diversity committee, chaired by Steelers owner Art Rooney, recommended these enhancements.
The NFL also announced the creation of the Diversity Advisory Committee, a six-person committee that, according to a league statement, will “lend its expert, external perspective on industry best practices and will evaluate league and club diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategies and initiatives, including all hiring processes, policies and procedures, with a primary focus on senior-level coach and front office personnel positions.”
“We’ve worked for years and made progress in many areas to ensure that staff and leaders in our office and at our clubs reflect the racial and gender makeup of America, but we have more work to do, particularly at the head coach and front-office level,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in the statement. “This esteemed group’s work will help us build a more inclusive league. We look forward to their recommendations — and to continuing our conversations with other outside experts, community and civil rights leaders, Fritz Pollard Alliance and current and former players and coaches — to make our efforts and those of the clubs more effective so that real and tangible results will be achieved.”
Furthermore, teams will now be required to hire a minority offensive assistant, with the goal being to help create a pipeline for more minority offensive coaches.
“It’s a recognition at the moment, when you look at the steppingstones for a head coach, they’re our coordinator positions, and there’s clearly a trend with those coaches coming from the offensive side,” Rooney said during his press conference (via Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer).
Minority hiring continues to be a hot-button topic within the NFL. There were only five minority head coaches during the 2021 season, and during the league’s recent hiring cycle, only two minority coaches — Lovie Smith and Mike McDaniel — were hired as head coaches. Former Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who was unceremoniously fired as the Dolphins coach earlier this offseason, filed a lawsuit against the NFL for racial discrimination.
Mike Tomlin, the Steelers‘ longtime head coach who added Flores to his coaching staff, said he wants to see tangible improvement as it relates to diversity and minority hiring. Along with a lack of minority hiring as far as head coaching positions are concerned, in the 2021 NFL season, women made up 38.8 percent of the NFL league office, 25.3 percent of teams’ senior administration, 3.1 percent of team CEOs and presidents, and 1.5 percent of team assistant coaches, according to a study released by Women’s Health.
“I’m more of a show-me guy as opposed to a guy that sits around and talks about things,” Tomlin said, via Mark Maske of The Washington Post. “I think that we’ve pecked around the entire discussion and subject and we’ve done a lot of beneficial things. But we’ve got to land the plane. We’ve got to hire capable candidates.”
Finally, the NFL clubs came together to provide a joint statement about their commitment to increase diversity among ownership. Rooney said during his press conference (via Breer) that it is his understanding that there is minority representation in “several” groups bidding on the Denver Broncos, who announced the beginning of the sale process Feb. 1.
“The NFL member clubs support the important goal of increasing diversity among ownership,” the statement read. “Accordingly, when evaluating a prospective ownership group of a member club pursuant to league policies, the membership will regard it as a positive and meaningful factor if the group includes diverse individuals who would have a significant equity stake in and involvement with the club, including serving as the controlling owner of the club.”