Wait…WHAT? The NFL’s Crazy Diversity Proposal

The National Football League’s “Rooney Rule” requires every team to interview one qualified minority candidate for a head-coaching job.  That requirement was introduced by owners in 2003, but it has done little to remedy the perceived problem that spawned it. About 70% of NFL players are black. Today, 17 years after Pittsburgh Steelers owner John Rooney pushed through his diversity-inspired rule, the NFL has two African-American general managers for 32 teams, or 6.3%. The league has three black head coaches for 32 teams. That’s 9.4%.

The contrast with the National Basketball Association, which also has an overwhelmingly black player population, is striking, as the graph above illustrates. Is this evidence of NFL discrimination? It’s certainly a bad look. Fans, of course, literally do not care what color their team’s management is as long as their work results in winning seasons and championships.

So this coming week, in a Zoom meeting necessitated by the pandemic, NFL owners will reportedly consider a new proposal to provide incentives to motivate owners to hire more of those minority candidates rather than just interview them.

Under the proposal, a team could improve its third-round draft selection by up to 16 picks,  going up 10 spots for hiring a minority candidate as general manager or an equivalent-level position, and six spots for hiring a minority head coach. A team would move up five spots in the fourth round if a minority head coach or general manager successfully entered the third year on the job, according to the report. In another feature of the proposed incentivized Rooney rule, a team retaining a minority quarterbacks coach after one year would net a fourth-round compensatory pick.

This is more than affirmative action, which itself rings ethics alarms (or should). This is the equivalent of paying employers to discriminate on the basis of race. I’ve read as many articles about this batty proposal as I can find, and none of them mention the legal problems, never mind the ethical objections. Higher draft choices are worth more to pro football teams than cash.  What happens to the new Rooney rule when a white candidate with more experience than the black candidate a team hired as a coach or general manager sues, claiming that the policy rewards discrimination?

I think that law suit prevails, and the rule eventually gets struck down.

Indiana sportswriter Gregg Doyel focuses on another problem, the stigma such a policy would attach to minority hires. “White, black, Latino….anybody who sweats and bleeds and works his way toward the top of the food chain in a job market as competitive as the NFL coaching ranks … well, that person, whoever he is, wouldn’t want the job if it came like this, ” he writes, “with the NFL patting his boss on the head and giving him a cookie, sorry, a better spot in the NFL draft.” Then there is the inherent unfairness of the rule.  He muses,

Imagine the Jacksonville Jaguars, to pull a franchise out of thin air, hiring a minority after the 2020 NFL season. Let’s say the Jaguars hire former Jags quarterback Byron Leftwich, among the impressive minority candidates who didn’t get hired after the 2019 season. That means the Jaguars’ third-round pick in 2022 improves by six spots.

That means jumping five teams. Imagine them jumping five teams that weren’t hiring a coach after the 2020 season. In other words, imagine them jumping five other teams who did nothing “wrong,” in this skewed form of NFL justice.

Yeah, that’s stupid, but it’s still secondary to the fact that the NFL is proposing rewarding teams for racial discrimination. Doyel thinks the proposed rule is a bluff, and that the idea is to force owners to focus on the embarrassing dearth of minority management positions by triggering public debate. I doubt it. Once our society started rationalization that racial discrimination was a legal and ethical remedy for racial discrimination, unethical policies like this were bound to follow, and have.

10 thoughts on “Wait…WHAT? The NFL’s Crazy Diversity Proposal

  1. Who decides what the population is to be. Sure the NFL and the NBA have a disproportionate number of black players relative to their makeup of the overall population but I don’t hear any outcry from the non-black athletes saying this is overt discrimination.

    If people want to use disproprtionate impact as a evidence of discrimination it must be bi- directional.

  2. Wait, aren’t NFL players of color entitled to have coaches and managers that look like they do? Like having an African American police chief in a predominantly African American community? I mean, who has more impact on your life: a police chief or the guy deciding how much you’re going to be paid or whether you’re going to be cut? Plus, the NFL doesn’t want to be shaken down by Black Lives Matter or former quarterbacks. This rule is necessary, therefore it’s just fine. Admirable, actually. Who could possibly argue otherwise?

    • So were you supporting the equivalent of the Rooney rule with the police chief? Ensuring the review of an underrepresented group,could that include a religion or a creed, is a valid way to at least improve the opportunity, but I always have an issue when it begins to be outcome based. Seems a slippery slope or are we wandering in the grey area where the perfect is the enemy of the good?

      • “So were you supporting the equivalent of the Rooney rule with the police chief?”

        Vit, my point above is that Jack was supporting a diversity approach to hiring a police chief in a previous post, so why shouldn’t he also embrace the NFL going bonkers to achieve a similar result? I’m not an ethicist, I’m an ironist.

        By the way, personally, I’ve concluded “diversity” is, as Thomas Menton refers to it, a fallacy. (I think Jack may use that term as well. Maybe I got the term here at EA.) I don’t think people of different skin tones or ethnic backgrounds do a thing to enhance any undertaking, institution or enterprise. For example, a college faculty is only enhanced by having the brightest minds and most effective teachers among its ranks. Football coaching staffs are only enhanced by having the best football minds and football teachers among their ranks. Having kids of different backgrounds on a college campus doesn’t do jack shit for the enterprise of educating students on that campus. It may make the white administrators feel better, but it doesn’t to anything for the kids who are there because of “diversity” requirements. It’s actually harmful for them. But that doesn’t matter. It’s all about appearing like a rainbow. Diversity is a complete and total canard, a ruse. It has zero benefit or utility.

  3. You can either have fairness, equality, meritocracy and all that jazz or you can have a multiracial ‘society’(which is no society at all). You can’t have both.

    • Bingo, exactly correct. Where are the Hispanic players? The Asians?

      Clearly the NBA and the NFL are racist. They need to more closely match the MLB and enact mandatory quotas during the draft.

      The players touting this crap are forgetting that they are dependent on the fans. And hint: the bulk of the $$$ coming in isn’t from the black community.

  4. The NFL is ruthless in its desire to win.

    There’s an old clip of Jerry Glanville on the side line complaining to a ref – “You know what NFL stands for? It stands for Not For Long, and that’s what’ll happen to me if you keep making calls like that. ”

    He was a successful coach, but not for long – at his next coaching stint he didn’t do so well.

    Mike Ditka, Superbowl winning coach of one of the greatest football teams in the history of the game, same thing – while the Saints are good now, they used to be the graveyard of NFL coaches and players on their way out of the league, and is where both Glanville and Ditka finished their careers.

    And if you say, yeah, well they’re both white, let me give you two black coaches who suffered the same fate – Herm Edwards and Dennis Green, both at least as successful as Ditka and Glanville. Dennis Green did a phenomenal job in Minnesota (man, when he came to the Cardinals, I thought our team was going somewhere!), and Herm Edwards was successful at a couple teams. Alas, “not for long”.

    Very few coaches are around for long, because the desire to win is insane – and not just win, but multiple playoff wins at a minimum, and championships. Andy Reid was fired from the Eagles despite being a wildly successful coach, with many, many winning seasons, multiple conference championship games, and a Superbowl appearance, where they lost to the Patriots. If THAT guy gets fired…

    Marvin Lewis was with the Bengals for a long while as well, and while arguably not as good as Andy Reid, had winning seasons and multiple playoff appearances. He was fired too.

    So the NFL is looking for the best of the best, in order not just to win, as we’ve seen, but to win BIG. And while racism has played a role in its history, once somebody wins in a certain way, a big way, the rest of the teams follow suit. Doug Williams absolutely blowing it up in a Superbowl win opened the door for black quarterbacks.

    At some point, things play out the way they play out, and while I’m sure biases and stereotypes play a role, I don’t believe “racism” is the cause of black coaches not being hired in the NFL. In sports, more than elsewhere, the cream rises to the top. And the bias and cream go both ways. As Charles Barkley (omg, who doesn’t love Chuck’s brutal honesty and truth telling!) said of Steve Nash years ago, when Nash was the best guard in the league but never given the press, the only reason he doesn’t get more love is because he’s white – Nash eventually got league MVP honors.

    Why is it that the NBA is comprised of mostly black players, and the majority of the best of the best are black, with the occasional white superstar?

    NFL “skill position” (i.e. receivers and running backs) players are mostly black, with the occasional white guy that cuts it. Name how many great white running backs have been in the league in the last 40 years. There’s one now, Christian McCaffrey. Is that because of racism? Surely there must be many NFL caliber white running backs, right?

    Is leadership and management skill immune from that sort of distribution or “natural selection”?

    And let’s face it, leadership and management are definite skills, and we’ve all worked for bad ones. Not everyone is cut out for those jobs, and the best ones, with the natural flair to motivate and organize, are a joy to work for. And working for bad ones, well, that’s getting close to hell on earth.

    And managing at different levels is subject to the same attribution. The larger the organization to run, the more complex it is, the greater the degree of skill that’s needed, and only a small fraction of any group will have the requisite experiece AND skill to accomplish it. The NBA is a different game, the play far less structured, with far fewer players.

    Finally, in professional sports, it’s never the superstars that are great coaches, it’s the bit players and bench warmers. The great players typically don’t make great coaches. For all the the people I named off the top of my head above, the only one I can think of that was a great player was Mike Ditka. And the average NFL career is only 3-1/2 years, so no matter how you look at it, the pool of people with the experiece, skill, and ability to manage in the absolute brutality of NFL coaching is even smaller still. It’s not as simple as saying, well, most of the players are black, therefore….

    The NFL is probably the preeminent meritocracy on the planet, and while like any organization is subject to biases, I think the NFL really does get the selection of the best of the best right, even if it is brutal in it’s pursuit of that.

    From where I sit, whining about the lack of black head coaches in the NFL is exactly that – whining.

  5. Here’s another consideration.

    A while back, the Detroit Lions were planning to hire a head coach. EVERYONE knew that the hire would be Steve Mariucci.

    So, the Lions didn’t even find a minority who would interview for a job that they knew they had no chance to get.

    Eventually, they hired Mariucci, the NFL fined them $200,000.

    The Lions were in a no-win situation. Do they find some token to “fulfill” the rule? Or do they break the rule and get the best coach they can as soon as they can?

    Ultimately, they took the latter option – the responsible option. Now, it didn’t work out, and they dumped Mariucci less than three years later, but nobody can say they didn’t hire who they thought the best person for the job was.

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