NFL's black coaches regret hiring policies
The assistant head coach for the San Francisco 49ers believes the hiring policies have fallen short.
Anthony Lynn, a veteran NFL coach, devised a personal defense in reaction to the League's policy requiring teams to examine minority candidates for senior positions.
Although Lynn says the policy is based on good intentions, he long ago added his own amendment. When discussing head coaching vacancies with teams, he would only agree if the team had already brought in another minority candidate.
The so-called Rooney rule did not include the condition until 2021. Lynn said he did not want to be a "token interview".
The coach said he believes in the spirit of the Rooney Rule but saw that it was being abused and did not want to be a part of it.
The rule was adopted in 2003 and was named for former Steelers owner Dan Rooney, who led the League's diversity committee. It was nearly unanimously applauded as an excellent concept that would benefit diversity.
The rule is frequently regarded as a policy that is adhered to in letter but not in spirit. It may be a humiliating procedure for individuals it was intended to assist, and it falls short of its goal: When the regulation was implemented in 2003, there were three non-white head coaches; currently, there are five.
The racial discrimination lawsuit filed this month by former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores against the NFL and numerous clubs has focused attention on the league's hiring procedures and rekindled long-simmering dissatisfaction with the Rooney Rule. Lynn and others have drawn parallels between the situation and corporate America, which has likewise failed to diversify its top ranks.
Read more: Flores sues NFL, citing racist hiring practices
Racism in the NFL
Flores said that a series of text exchanges with Patriots coach Bill Belichick three days before a scheduled interview for the head coaching job with the New York Giants prompted him to initiate the complaint. Flores was made to assume that Brian Daboll had already been hired as the next coach as a result of those communications.
“It was humiliating to be quite honest,” Flores said. “There was disbelief, there was anger, there was a wave of emotion for a lot of reasons.”
Teryl Austin, who is the defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was among the contenders Lynn beat out for the position.
At times, Austin believed he was only a candidate to "check the box" to comply with the mandate.
“Maybe I’m not what the owners see when they look in the mirror and they see leadership positions.”
Flore's lawsuit includes Austin's personal experience as proof of a biased system that is failing eligible job hopefuls.
On Wednesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell responded in part, claiming the league had made "tremendous progress in a lot of areas," but admitted the league is behind in terms of head coaches.
"We have more work to do, and we have to figure it out," Goodell said ahead of Sunday's Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, stating that the NFL has already enlisted the expertise of "outside experts" to study employment procedures, including repelling the Rooney Rule.
Art Rooney II, the Steelers' current President, defended the impact of his father's eponymous hiring strategy.
“While I acknowledge that we have not seen progress in the ranks of head coaches, we have seen a marked improvement in the hiring of women and minorities in other key leadership roles,” he said.
Although over 70% of NFL players are Black, the League is behind in diversity. While Black assistant coaches make up more than a third of the coaching staff, only two teams used Black offensive coordinators this season, the penultimate rung before becoming a head coach.
According to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, about 85% of the League's general managers and player personnel directors are white.