Rooney Rule effect: Steelers hire Brian Flores

(News4usonline) – The question now becomes now what when it comes to Brian Flores and his racial discrimination lawsuit against the National Football League (NFL)?

Less than a month after dropping a lawsuit against The Shield, citing discrimination and racial bias in regards to the league’s lack of hiring and retaining Black head coaches, Flores has a new football gig.

Not too shockingly, the team that decided to give Flores another coaching job was the Pittsburgh Steelers, where Mike Tomlin roams the sidelines. Out of the 32 teams that make up the league, Tomlin is only one of two Black head coaches in the NFL. Before Lovie Smith got his second career head coaching position with the Houston Texans, for a while Tomlin was the lone Black head coach in the NFL.

With the Rooney Rule put in place in 2003 in which every NFL ballclub have to go through the interview process with diverse or minority candidates before they announce a hire, the league has gone backward in the name of progress. There were three Black head coaches when the Rooney Rule was first implemented.

Fast-forward to the end of the 2021 regular season. The NFL had a total of nine head coaching vacancies. Eight of those positions went to white coaches. After he lost out on being tapped as the head coach for the New York Giants, Flores brought on his lawsuit against the league and against several teams. That would include the Giants as well.

After posting two consecutive seasons with a winning record, Flores was fired as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins with just three years under his belt in that position. The Dolphins are also named in Flores’ lawsuit.

“The Rooney Rule may have been well-intentioned, although it is hard to attribute benevolence to the NFL given the complete lack of action that it has taken post-Rooney Rule to remedy discrimination that it admits exists. However, well-intentioned or not, what is clear is that the Rooney Rule is not working. It is not working because the numbers of Black Head Coaches, coordinators and quarterback coaches are not even close to being reflective of the number of Black athletes on the field. The Rooney Rule is also not working because management is not doing the interviews in good faith, and it, therefore, creates a stigma that interviews of Black candidates are only being done to comply with the Rooney Rule rather than in recognition of the talents that the Black candidates possess,” part of the lawsuit states.

The Rooney Rule was named after Dan Rooney, the late owner of the Steelers. So it would be fitting that the franchise in which the NFL’s diversity initiative as it relates to head coaching and (now) general managers and executives, would reach out and extend an olive branch to Flores. Tomlin had no problem welcoming the 14-year NFL coaching veteran to the Steelers family.

“I am excited about Brian Flores joining our coaching staff given his history of developing and teaching defensive players during his time in the NFL,” Tomlin said. “Brian’s resume speaks for itself, and I look forward to him adding his expertise to help our team.”

The Steelers announced that Flores was tapped to be a senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach for the team. Now about that lawsuit. Flores made some serious allegations against his former employers, including references to player tampering and alleged tanking beside his discrimination claims.

Among some of the remedies or actions taken by the league that Flores would like to see is rewarding ballclubs with financial incentives for their hiring and retaining Black head coaches and general managers as well as offensive and defensive coordinators. He also wants Black players and coaches to be part of the interview process.

Despite the NFL making inroads in other areas around the league in regards to diversity and inclusion, there is still a lot of work to do, Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a press conference leading up to Super Bowl LVI.

“I think that we’ve made a tremendous amount of a lot of progress in a lot of areas, but not at the head coach, and that is something that we have focused on to try to get the results that we would expect and we fell short by a longshot by us,” Goodell said.

Featured Image Caption: MIAMI GARDENS, FL – JANUARY 09: Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores during the game between the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins on January 9, 2022, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fl. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire)