NFL 2020 diversity grades still lag behind

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Photo by Mario Cuadros on

The NFL’s firing and hiring season for coaches is now underway with six head coaching (HC) and four general manager (GM) openings that need to be filled.

The Rooney Rule, which mandates that teams interview at least one Black individual for coaching vacancies, was modified late last year. It now requires that a minimum of two HC candidates of color be interviewed, one candidate of color for coordinators jobs and one candidate of color for a senior football operations or GM position.

Also, candidates of color and females must now be strongly considered when interviewing for team senior level jobs. Whether or not these changes will improve the NFL’s overall diversity remains debatable, as its racial and gender equity continues to lag behind other pro leagues, especially at the team level.   

The 2020 NFL Racial and Gender Report Card (RGRC) was released last month by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES). This year’s racial hiring grades are as follows:

D+ for HCs; F for GMs; D for CEOs/presidents; A+ for assistant coaches; A+ for players; B for senior administration; B+ for professional administration; and A+ for NFL League Office racial hiring.

The NFL began the 2020 season with four head coaches of color, three of whom were Black, and two GMs of color, both Black. Nearly midway through the season, two White coaches were fired and replaced on an interim basis by two Black coaches. The Los Angeles Chargers fired Anthony Lynn after the season, which now leaves Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh) as the league’s only permanent Black head coach.

“Obviously I am concerned about the head coach situation and the GM situation,” TIDES Director Richard Lapchick told us. He added that he was encouraged the NFL updated its media policy, which says that clubs must provide “regular and reasonable access” to assistant coaches for media interviews, and that teams will get a third-round compensatory draft pick if they develop Blacks and other POC for top football jobs and another team hires them.

“I was heartened by the measures to change the hiring practices in the NFL,” continued Lapchick. On the media policy, he said, “I think that shows the type of detail they are going to give exposure at that level to assistant coaches and coordinators to make sure that they get their names out there in the media.”

Yet Lapchick expressed concern that with sports operating now during a pandemic, NFL teams may find themselves rushing to hire new coaches. “I’m hoping that the opposite effect is happening here, and they might slow things down and look at the people who are out there in the pool.”

Bits and pieces

While sports media went ga-ga when San Antonio Spurs Assistant Coach Becky Hammon took over after HC Gregg Popovich was ejected during a Dec. 10 NBA game, this Whitewashed previous historic milestones.

Stephanie Ready in 2001 became the first female coach of a men’s professional league when the now-broadcaster was an NBA Development League (now G-League) head coach.

Bernadette Mattox was the first Black female and the first female ever to coach Division I men’s basketball coach as a University of Kentucky assistant (1990-95). Ready (Coppin State) and another female later joined Mattox as assistant coaches on men’s teams to become the only three women to do this.

Globe-tracking the Lynx

Temi Fagbenle (Reyer Venezia) and Kayla Alexander (Castors Braine) are in action this week.

Fagbenle last week posted a double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds) and a single-single (six points and six boards) in two wins. Erica McCall (KSC Szekszard) averaged six points and seven rebounds in a .500 week, and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan (Bellona Kayseri) hauled down 10 rebounds and added seven points and four assists in an eight-point overtime defeat last week.