The NFL hiring season at press time reveals no Blacks hired for the five head coaching vacancies that existed, all of which are now filled. The same is true for the multiple MLB managerial openings that existed once the 2019 season concluded last fall.
“It’s sad that in 2020 we are still having this discussion,” said Philadelphia Tribune Columnist Daryl Bell last week. He listed 13 qualified Black candidates, at least half of them with previous MLB manager experience. He later noted that five of 13 Black football coaches—Leslie Frazier, Todd Bowles, Raheem Morris, Jim Caldwell and Steve Wilks—have been NFL head coaches. Two—James Franklin and David Shaw—are currently college head coaches.
We always hear the same old story about how teams look for seasoned coaches, but it seems that in their eyes only White persons fit the bill. “Unfortunately, there aren’t many African Americans with those qualities,” Bell complained. “There are some that I named like Raheem Morris [Atlanta defensive coordinator and former Tampa Bay head coach], and there are a couple of other guys who have had head coaching experience.”
Black candidates are unwilling causalities of the NFL’s Rooney Rule that since 2003 has required teams to at least interview one coach of color for head coaching and general manager vacancies. But in the true analysis, this is cultural conditioning (CC).
Sirius XM’s Joe Madison explains: “We are culturally conditioned to believe that White is superior and Black is inferior. And the manifestation of that cultural conditioning is that Black people are undervalued, underestimated and marginalized.”
You’re not born with CC; it is a learned behavior among such authority figures as parents, professors, politicians, religious leaders, peers, and especially among primarily White media (PWM). It defines their cultural values, beliefs, and ethical systems in the way they perceive Blacks in this country and the rest of the world.
This is no less true in sports, especially in leadership roles. It’s cultural conditioning when Syracuse WBB Coach Quentin Hillsman earlier this month successfully drew up a buzzer-winning play that his players executed for an overtime victory. If he were White, this would have been lauded non-stop on ESPN.
“They are the best franchise in the NFL,” Bell continued on the Dallas Cowboys, who filled their head coaching opening last week. “If [team owner Jerry Jones] would have hired a Black head coach, it would have done wonders for other African American coaches and people who want to be coaches. He could’ve sent a really big signal, but Jerry wasn’t looking at making headway like that.
“Until we have owners who are willing to do that, we always will be playing second fiddle to get this job or that job,” Bell said. “They want us to be assistants but not head [coaches].”
Bell pointed out that whenever Blacks are hired as NFL head coaches, “The leash isn’t long. They fired a guy in Arizona [Wilks] last year after one year.”
This columnist has watched first-hand over the years as the local PWM used CC whenever possible with Black head coaches: the Vikings (Frazier, Dennis Green), Wolves (Sidney Lowe, Dwane Casey, Sam Mitchell), Gophers (Clem Haskins, Tubby Smith), and Lynx (Jennifer Gillom). We painfully observed the Penn State traveling PWM’s cultural conditioning in Franklin’s post-game press conference after his team suffered its first loss at Minnesota in October.
Sadly, even some Blacks are culturally conditioned, trying to live up to White standards and vying for acceptance rather than being proud of our own rich culture and traditions,
Yes, cultural conditioning is alive and well in the NFL. It’s called the Rooney Rule.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.