NFL lacks diversity because owners don’t hold themselves accountable?

Written by Amy Ta, produced by Angie Perrin

“You see in the first five to seven years of the Rooney Rule, there was a spike in terms of minority representation at the head coaching level. However, that did not last, and things are as bad as they were 20 years ago now,” says Jerry Brewer, sports columnist for Washington Post. Photo by Shutterstock.

The Rooney Rule requires NFL teams to interview candidates of color for head coaching and top front office positions. The league instituted it 20 years ago. And while today nearly 60% of NFL players are Black, only three head coaches are Black, and zero team owners are Black. That’s according to a Washington Post investigation that looks at the league’s diversity dilemma

“It's a rather toothless policy,” Washington Post Sports Columnist Jerry Brewer says of the Rooney Rule. 

He explains that the NFL expanded the rule a few times, and now teams must interview two minorities or women who are outside of their organization. 

“What teams used to do is say, ‘Okay, we have a Black coach whose our wide receivers coach, we’ll interview him, we're not going to hire him, but we'll interview him.’ So they're trying to eliminate some of the sham interviews in the process.”

He says the NFL has a “non-defense” to this. “‘We need to do better.’ … Roger Goodell has said that 1000 times over the course of a decade and a half as the NFL commissioner.”

The NFL is a complicated league, Brewer explains, because it’s actually composed of 32 different organizations that act as one. 

“Everything that is done, you have to have three-fourths of the owners approve every policy. And that's how you get a Rooney Rule that doesn't have any teeth in it because the owners don't want to hold themselves accountable. Yet they're the ones in the background who ultimately are responsible for perpetuating the system, but they never have to answer anymore.”