Tuesday, the National Football League voted to postpone a ruling that would incentivize the hiring of minority head coaches and general managers. The proposal was tabled after it received negative press from observers and players believing teams would hire and African-American and ethnic minority as head coach and/or general manager in order to improve draft positioning would be a grand form of tokenism. However, the owners did approve a sweeping resolution that overhauls the NFL front office to increase employment opportunities and advancement for minorities and women across the league.
First, the new Anti-Tampering Policy establishes a system that prohibits a club from denying:
(1) an assistant coach the opportunity to interview with a new team for a bona fide Offensive Coordinator, Defensive Coordinator, or Special Teams Coordinator position;
(2) a non-high-level/non-secondary football executive from interviewing for a bona fide Assistant General Manager position. In either case, a contract could not be negotiated or signed until after the conclusion of the employer club’s playing season; and 3) requires all clubs submit in writing an organizational reporting structure for the coaching staff with job descriptions for any coach who is a coordinator or co-coordinator within that structure. The resolution also requires that any dispute regarding whether the new team is offering a “bona fide” position will be submitted promptly to the Commissioner, whose determination shall be final, binding and not subject to further review.
Previously, teams had the ability to block members of their front-office or coaching staff from interviewing with other teams.
The resolution was put forth by the Workplace Diversity Committee, chaired by Rooney and the Competition Committee, chaired by Rich McKay of the Atlanta Falcons. The league also announced an expansion of Rooney Rule requirements and the implementation of enhanced diversity policies.
The Rooney Rule now says teams must interview two minority head-coaching candidates when an opening occurs.
“We believe these new policies demonstrate the NFL Owners’ commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in the NFL,” said Pittsburgh Steelers owner and chairman of the Workplace Diversity Committee, Art Rooney II. “The development of young coaches and young executives is a key to our future. These steps will assure coaching and football personnel are afforded a fair and equitable opportunity to advance throughout our football operations. We also have taken important steps to ensure that our front offices, which represent our clubs in so many different ways, come to reflect the true diversity of our fans and our country.”
The NFL’s Workplace Diversity Committee is comprised of owners and executive personnel to include: Chair, Art Rooney II (Pittsburgh Steelers); Michael Bidwill (Arizona Cardinals); Arthur Blank (Atlanta Falcons); Ozzie Newsome (Baltimore Ravens), Kim Pegula (Buffalo Bills), George H. McCaskey (Chicago Bears). E. Javier Loya (Houston Texans); and John Mara (New York Giants).
“The NFL is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, which I believe is critical to our continued success,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “While we have seen positive strides in our coaching ranks over the years aided by the Rooney Rule, we recognize, after the last two seasons, that we can and must do more. The policy changes made today are bold and demonstrate the commitment of our ownership to increase diversity in leadership positions throughout the league.”
Lastly, every NFL team will host a coaching fellowship program geared towards the promotion and development of minority candidates. These fellowships are full-time positions, ranging from one to two years, and provide NFL Legends, minority, and female participants with hands-on training in NFL coaching. While positions at each organization vary, these programs help identify and develop talent with the goal of advancing candidates to full-time coaching positions through promotion within.