NFLPA Director Explains Why Rooney Rule Has Failed

Chris Lingebach
June 12, 2020 - 1:43 pm

As the NFL struggles to adequately address its diversity problem in the coaching ranks, recent revisions to the Rooney Rule aspire to bring meaningful change.

It's not enough to say the Rooney Rule – which, until recently, has required teams to interview one minority candidate for head coaching positions – has largely failed to meet its intended purpose. It's also important to understand why it failed.

"We see it from NFL coaches, right? There's all sorts of structural racism in the NFL," DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of the NFLPA, said this week on Eric Bickel's 'Time and Room' podcast. "The way that it effects, or effectuates itself is there just are not a lot of minority coaches in the pipeline to become head coach, and that is because there is structural racism in the NFL."

The NFL currently employs three African-American head coaches (Mike Tomlin, Anthony Lynn, Brian Flores), the same amount as in 2003 (Marvin Lewis, Tony Dungy, Herm Edwards), when the Rooney Rule was put into effect.

"You can talk all day about the Rooney Rule this, the Rooney Rule that," Smith said. "Our suggestion to the league is eliminate the barriers for O-coordinators, running backs coach, wide receivers coaches, to actually be in the pipeline to be an offensive coordinator, and then therefore in the pipeline to be a head coach."

The NFL approved new provisions to the Rooney Rule in May, which, in part, now requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate from outside their organization for vacant offensive, defensive, or special teams coordinator positions.

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