NFL hiring needle still stuck on White

Courtesy of Central Florida Dr. C. Keith Harrison

Third in a multi-part series

Racial hiring and “occupational mobility” always have been challenging for the National Football League. A historically all-White power structure and its slave-master mentality most likely top the varied reasons.

The Institute for Diversity in Ethics in Sport (TIDES) gave the league a B in racial hiring and a B-minus overall in this year’s Racial and Gender Report Card, but noted, “People of color and women are seriously under-represented in significant decision-making positions at the team level.” TIDES’ latest racial breakdown is as follows:

  • 10 percent of the league office staff is Black
  • 11 percent of team senior administrators is Black
  • Almost nine percent of other administrators is Black
  • 7.1 percent of team vice-presidents is Black
  • 6.3 percent of GMs is Black
  • Six percent of C-Suite positions is Black
  • Zero Black presidents/CEOs
  • Nearly 60 percent of its players are Black, but only three Black head coaches. 

The Minnesota Vikings media guide has 10 Blacks among the approximately 120-130 front office personnel, and none in senior administration positions.

Between 1963 and 2020, only 18 different Blacks have been NFL head coaches compared to 28 Whites, says the 2019 NFL Diversity and Inclusion Report. Also during that span, 115 Whites have been hired as head coach (HC), offensive coordinator (OC) or defensive coordinator (DC) after being hired once as a head coach, and 27 Whites after a second opportunity. Only 11 head coaches of color from 1963 to 2020 have gotten head coaching “second chances.”

“The last two years we have seen a drop in coaches of color,” Central Florida Associate Professor Dr. C. Keith Harrison recently told the MSR. He co-authored the annual report and is director of the Paul Robeson Research Center at the University of Central Florida. His group has been analyzing occupational mobility patterns and their impact on Blacks and other coaches of color reports since 2013. 

“We are still trying to get our head around what is preventing men of color” from getting football’s three most influential on-field leadership positions, he added. Between the 2019 Super Bowl and this year’s title game, only seven men of color were hired to fill front office vacancies.

That good ole boy network is not just prevalent in the NFL, but in all aspects of American society when it comes to racial hiring. Also, PWM (primarily White media) practice what is essentially “racial profiling” in promoting Whites for coaching jobs, using such adjectives as “excellent” and “up-and-coming” for them but not for Blacks.

“Until people who make decisions are comfortable with different [people]…that’s White Supremacy,” said Harrison.       

Not even the famed “Rooney Rule,” in place since 2003 mandating that teams interview at least one Black candidate for coaching openings, has moved the NFL’s diversity needle as proponents hoped. Earlier this year, the league voted to tweak it. Now at least two POC must be interviewed for HC jobs, and at least one POC for coordinator, football operations, and GM positions.

“Will that help?” we asked Harrison.

“We don’t need a new normal, but a new culture,” he said. “We can move forward… When we start to do that, then we can get on the road [to change].”

Next: The NBA and the WNBA

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