Black Monday in the National Football League, the first day after the season when teams usually announce head coach firings, took on a different meaning with the firing of five Black head coaches at the end of the 2018 football season. Many Twitter users could not help but notice a pattern.
The Cincinnati Bengals’ Marvin Lewis became the fifth Black head coach—out of just seven in the league—to get a pink slip at the end of the season.
There are 32 teams in the NFL and none has a Black person with a majority ownership stake, according to data analyzed by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. Approximately 70 percent of the players are Black, but 75 percent of the head coaches are white.
The so-called “Rooney Rule” is credited by many for increasing the number of head coaches of color in the league, which reached a high point of eight in 2017. Under that NFL mandate, teams must interview non-white candidates for coaching and general manager positions.
“To me, the Rooney Rule is doing what it is supposed to do. It’s not just to interview minority coaches, but to investigate every candidate and make a thorough list and highlight the person who fits you,” Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy, who is African-American, told the Associated Press in 2017.
However, Black head coaches find themselves on a short leash compared to their white counterparts, according to an analysis by Forbes. Team owners are more likely to fire a Black head coach even though their team had a winning season.
By 2017, there had been only 17 Black head coaches in NFL history who managed a team for an entire season. Four of them—Art Shell, Tony Dungy, Lovie Smith and Jim Caldwell—were fired despite having a winning season. That’s 23.5 percent. By comparison, team owners fired only 6.9 percent of white head coaches on winning teams.
At the same time, it seems as though the bar is set much lower for whites. Football analysts wondered why Washington Redskins’ president Bruce Allen has been allowed to keep his job, which includes making hiring decisions, despite the team having six out of nine losing seasons.
Lewis was the head coach of the Bengals for 16 seasons. He had the most wins in franchise history. Also fired on Black Monday was the Cleveland Browns’ Hue Jackson who lost his job in October, New York Jets’ Todd Bowles, Denver Broncos’ Vance Joseph, and Arizona Cardinals’ Steve Wilks.
News of five Black head coaches losing their jobs caused many to raise an eyebrow and take to Twitter to question what was behind these firings.