But declining Black head coaches tells a different story
Despite a racial discrimination lawsuit still hanging over the league, and the lowest number of Black head coaches in years, The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) pointed out that its latest racial and gender report card has shown progress in diversity hiring practices.
But before we discuss the TIDES report, what about the Brian Flores still-active lawsuit against the NFL? Although he is currently on the Minnesota Vikings coaching staff, his lawsuit, filed in 2022, against the league and several teams, charges that he and other Black coaches face discrimination.
The all-time high for NFL Black head coaches is seven (in 2006, 2011, 2017, and 2018) and has been stuck at three for the last three seasons, including 2023. Conversely, the 309 Black assistant coaches this season is an all-time league high, just under 37 percent of all assistant coaches for 2023.
When the 2023 NFL report was released just before Christmas, TIDES founder Richard Lapchick wrote in ESPN last month that the league has taken a lot of criticism for its diversity and inclusion efforts. This columnist, for example, has been oft-critical of the league long before the whiteballing of Colin Kaepernick and the so-called racial awakening of 2020 took place.
The slogans “End racism” and “It takes all of us” tag lines at the two Vikings end zones still haven’t made me a believer. Nonetheless, Lapchick and TIDES’ new director Dr. Adrian Bouchet both praised the NFL in the latest report.
“They have made major strides in the DEI initiatives,” Bouchet told the MSR. “Dr. Lapchick said they have really come a long way. Not just in the last 10 or 20 years, but even in the last five years or even the last two or three years… This report was very positive.”
The TIDES report highlighted some of the league-wide DEI initiatives:
- The NFL encourages a diverse interview process, and six NFL clubs have received compensatory draft picks since setting up a reward system in 2020.
- The NFL DEI Committee meets several times a year to discuss, analyze, and present proposals to enhance the current and future state of DEI in the NFL.
- All 32 league clubs have approved a designated DEI leader.
- The NFL has established an extensive education program on the importance of DEI.
“This seems to be at the forefront of what they want to do in the future,” said the TIDES director on the league’s DEI initiatives listed in the TIDES report appendix.
However, the NFL has not yet passed the proof-in-the-pudding test despite its overall B-plus grade, the best in the history of the NFL racial and gender report card. But what should still be concerning is that the percentage of Black head coaches has plummeted from around 22 percent in 2017 and 2018 to 9.4 percent in the 2021-23 seasons.
More than 53 percent of the players are Black. Still, there is no Black majority team owner, although seven women are now principal owners.
And the Flores lawsuit remains out there as well. “I would certainly be interested to know the status of it,” said Bouchet.