Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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4th and Forever

For a league that has been around since September of 1920, the National Football League is disturbingly behind in its diversity among the front office and other positions of authority. How is it that in 2022 a league that has an overwhelming majority of Non-White/Black/African-American players only has two minority owners and three minority head coaches to show for it? Mind you these numbers don’t have any statistical origin aside from a derivative of Slavery and Jim Crow but for the purpose of context, even those could be seen as irrelevant now. In this day and time, the only answer is ignorance and negligence. We’re just a year removed from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers winning Super Bowl 55, with arguably the most diverse coaching staff in NFL history, yet here we are watching the league succumb to a class action lawsuit in hopes of simply leveling the playing field for all coaches of color.

Brian Flores, former Head Coach of the Miami Dolphins and four-time Super Bowl Winner (in case the powers that be decide to not remind y’all of accolades), is suing the NFL on the grounds of racial discrimination and unjust practices when it comes to interviewing, offering, and maintaining head coaching opportunities to minorities after he himself claims subject to interviews under false pretense during the current off-season. This suit also comes after a three-year stint where Flores led the Dolphins to consecutive winning seasons while having injury-riddled rosters and fluctuating dynamics. 

According to CNN, the lawsuit itself is a 58-page document that states his previous employer Miami Dolphins, and former potential employers in the New York Giants and the Denver Broncos as defendants of the case with the rest of the league seemingly watching from the sideline… at least for now. The lawsuit aims to shine a light on the overall tone of the league and its relationship or lack thereof to the “Rooney Rule ” and to add more specifically the alleged “Tanking” Dolphins ownership wanted to impose and compensate Coach Flores for which would ultimately place him as the scapegoat in wake of a total collapse of the team.   

“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.” (Flores Class-Action Suit,2022)

 For those following along at home, the abbreviated explanation of the “Rooney Rule ” is that it was established in 2003 and named after Dan Rooney, former owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and chairman of the NFL’S diversity committee to essentially ensure that minority coaches have their fair share of opportunities to lead an NFL team by requiring them to interview minority coaches. There’s a saying I’ve heard a few times growing up in the South that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” so allow me to welcome you all to “NFL Hell”, Circa 2022. 

Flores and his camp claim, rightfully I might add, that the NFL is interviewing minority coaches simply to fill the quota of doing so with no intentions of actually hiring one of the qualified minority coaches. With names such as Jim Caldwell, Eric Bieniemy, Byron Leftwich, Herm Edwards, and Raheem Morris among others who have nothing left to prove yet not given a shot it would be nearly impossible to argue against Flores. History has shown that the finish line for Black and Brown people is ever-changing and if/when we reach it there’s almost always a catch or a caveat to the accomplishment. To be fair the league has made some changes to the rule since its origin but in my opinion, we as people of color are still fighting the same war in a different battle. 

If you have to add or remove rules to the game after it’s already being played odds are it was never supposed to be fair to begin with and was done so by design.

Therein lies the work to be done, to erase and establish a new playing field where all who qualify will actually be given a chance to be awarded a seat at the table and keep it. It shouldn’t take another accomplished individual to be a catalyst and martyr for the sake of “playing fair” yet we’ve seen this before. Recent history has shown us what happens in these instances similar to Colin Kaepernick essentially giving up his career after leading his team to the Super Bowl to serve as a voice for those bound by systematic oppression and regression. For Coach Flores to pick up the baton and lead in a different race should be noted as nothing short of trailblazing. A win for Flores would be a win for us all, similar to Tony Dungy becoming the first Black Head Coach to win the Super Bowl 15 years ago, Doug Williams becoming the first Black quarterback to win the Super Bowl in 1988, and Kenny Washington becoming the first Black player to sign a contract with the NFL in 1946. It only takes one person to start but it will take everyone to finish. 

In football, it takes all 11 players all of the time and right now it’s time to pick up our teammate.

Malcolm Anderson 

Malcolm Anderson is a Cum Laude graduate of Reinhardt University. From the beginning of his education, the ideas of creativity and ever-expanding curiosity were instilled in him. He loves working with children and helping them believe that they can do anything they put their mind to, a lesson he was taught from an early age. Although his focus is on Sports Media, Malcolm has been writing for various mediums over the past few years and aims to expand his repertoire in an effort to reach as many people as possible.

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