NFL Makes the Grade in Improvement of Racial Hiring

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris is reflective of the NFL’s improvement of its racial hiring practices./PRNewswire

The National Football League achieved an A grade on racial hiring practices and a C on gender hiring practices in the 2010 NFL Racial and Gender Report Card, released by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida. This gave the NFL a combined B grade. In the history of the NFL Racial and Gender Report Card, that is the best grade ever received on racial hiring practices by the NFL.

Using data from the 2009 season, The Institute conducted an analysis of racial breakdowns of the players, managers and coaches. In addition, the Report includes a racial and gender breakdown of top team management, senior administration, professional administration, physicians, head trainers and broadcasters. Coaches, general managers, presidents and owners were updated as of August 1, 2010.

Among the highlights from the RGRC is that the NFL started the 2010 season with five African-American general managers, just as it had started the 2007, 2008 and 2009 seasons. One of the five, Jerry Reese, became the first African-American general manager to win a Super Bowl when the New York Giants won in 2008.

Over the last couple of years, the NFL has made great strides in improving the diversity of people who run and call the shots for teams. To that extent, people of color held more than 17 percent of senior administrator positions on NFL teams in the 2009 season. Seventeen percent of the total senior administrator positions were held by women.

The growing success by people of color in administrative positions has also been showcased in the Super Bowl, the biggest sporting event in the country. Six out of the last eight Super Bowl teams have had either an African-American head coach or general manager: coaches Tony Dungy (Colts), Lovie Smith (Bears), Mike Tomlin (Steelers) and Jim Caldwell (Colts) and GMs Jerry Reese (Giants) and Rod Graves (Cardinals).

When Pittsburgh won the 2009 Super Bowl, Mike Tomlin became the second African-American head coach in three years to lead his team to a Super Bowl championship.   And believe it or not, the 2009 and 2010 Super Bowls each had two African-American officials calling the game.

People of color make up nearly a quarter of management positions in the league office, with African Americans comprising a tad over eight percent of those jobs. Asian Americans make up nearly 10 percent of those holding management jobs, while Latinos represent close to five percent.

However, the hiring of African Americans at the VP level or higher has improved, growing from four to nine positions in the NFL office. African Americans continue to make strides in the coaching ranks as well with six blacks hired as head coaches to lead teams. There are nine African Americans working as assistant head coaches and 12 individuals who serve as coordinators. Overall, African Americans make up 34 percent of the league’s assistant coaches.

While those numbers are good and the NFL has been incredibly active in developing community initiatives and hammering out strong diversity programs, there is still room for improvement when you consider African Americans make up 67 percent of the players on the football field.

The implementation of the Rooney Rule, which requires that people of color be interviewed as part of the search process for head coaches, helped triple the number of African-American head coaches in the NFL from two in 2001 to six in 2005. There were seven African-American head coaches in 2006 and there have been six each year since 2007.

The Rooney Rule was named after Steelers owner Dan Rooney, who is the head of the league’s diversity committee. The NFL’s policy is similar to the approach adopted earlier by Major League Baseball in 1999 under Bud Selig, which helped triple the number of managers of color in MLB in the first few years after implementation.

The progress that the NFL has made since the adoption of the Rooney Rule in 2002 is particularly significant considering that historically there has been virtually no college pipeline for African-American coaches.

No former NFL head coach who is African-American has ever been hired as a major college head coach. And there has never been an African American to hold majority interest of an NFL team in the history of the game. Tennis stalwarts Venus and Serena Williams purchased a share of the Miami Dolphins last year.

This was the NFL’s first full A grade for racial hiring practices after the NFL’s score for race improved slightly from 89.2 in the previous report to 90.6 points out of 100. This moved the 2009 A- grade to a full A.

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