Rooney Rule

It’s ironic that when the Rooney Rule was instituted, its intent was to encourage diversity, race wise, in regards to hiring head coaches in the NFL. But what it has really done is illustrate the lack of racial and ethnic diversity in those hiring practices, as well as how that sentiment is widespread throughout the league.

What is the Rooney Rule?

To give a condensed explanation – named after former Pittsburgh Steelers owner and Chairman of the league’s Diversity Committee, Dan Rooney, and established in 2003 – it is a rule that requires owners of NFL franchises to interview at least one minority (ethnic minority) candidate prior to selecting the individual they desire to be the head coach of their respective team(s).

As stated “Its purpose was to ensure that minority coaches, especially African Americans, would be considered for high level coaching positions”.

So the question that should be prosed is what did this actually say?

Ask yourself, why would the league and civil rights entities (litigated by civil rights attorneys) possess the need to have a rule put in place, whose primary impetus is to make sure minority head coaching candidates obtain an interview. The reason is simple. There has been a practice of institutionalized racism and unfair biasness (sometimes intentional and other times not) by the owners of NFL teams. If not, would there be the need for the Rooney Rule to address that? Probably not.

The so called “Old Boys Club” which refers to older Caucasian men who want to keep the status quo from their time, which is to remain in power and to keep things the way they believe they are supposed to be. But those “ways”, are not always favourable – or even fair – to minorities and women. That’s why if one wants to become an owner of an NFL franchise, the rules state that current owners will decide if you can be, as there is a threshold of votes you must secure from said owners to do so. So in Layman’s Terms, the current owners decide who can own teams. Then whomever they decide can, then decides – and/ or play a significant role – in who receives head coaching positions.

Now I believe the rule in itself is imprudent because you should be able to run the business that you own in any way you see fit, as long as it is in the realm of the law. If this means you run your business into the ground, then so be it. If Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones wants to hire a trail of “yes” men – including recently fired Jason Garrett – who will bend to his whims, that’s his entitlement. Yes his team has won a grand total of four playoff wins in the last quarter century, but that’s what you get if you run it that way. If the Arizona Cardinals want to hire Kliff Kingsbury, who was unable to muster a .500 (35-40) record at the collegiate level (NCAA) with Texas Tech in six seasons (four of which were losing ones) that is their prerogative.

But we’re not discussing what these owners and higher ranking officials of teams should or should not do, or what they should be allowed and not allowed to do, but more so what it says about them? And on a grander level, the NFL as a whole?

The Rooney Rule elucidates that the majority of owners have had a limited interest in hiring – or even considering – minorities for these positions, and sadly the Rule will not eradicate that. In fact it may have aided that, as it has become more of a chore, something on a “to do” list. They’ll give an ethnic minority an interview, maybe without giving them serious consideration to check that “box”, then move on to the candidate that they want. Who the majority of the time is Caucasian.

So when this rule was instituted back in 2003, its purpose was to promote more racial diversity among head coaching hiring practices, but almost two decades later, it is showing us who the NFL really is.

The rule – and the fact that it had to be implemented – exemplified a pattern of institutionalized and systemic racism (intentional or not) which permeates the NFL to this day. Subliminally it informs us that beliefs and actions are still prevalent, and the fact that the rule was implemented and is still in practice (though not really helping much) continues to be evidence which supports that sentiment.


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