Black NFL head coaches deliver results just as good as their White counterparts, but they apparently have a tough time landing the jobs in the first place — and then keeping them is entirely a whole other matter. Yet even with initiatives such as the league’s “End Racism” movement, it would appear that it’s actually gotten more challenging to get the position if you’re Black.
In its analysis titled “How the NFL Blocks Black Coaches,” The Washington Post presents the data to support this finding as well as anecdotal evidence from some of the Black coaches who’ve been able to actually make it to the position.
The NFL was founded in 1920, but it would be nearly seven decades more until the league had its first Black head coach ever: Art Shell, who was hired by the Los Angeles Raiders. And in the 33 years since Shell’s appointment, 191 men have been made an NFL head coach. However, only 24 of them were Black, which is considered a “glaring shortcoming” for a league whose player makeup is six-tenths Black, as reported by the Post.
In 2003, the NFL instituted the Rooney Rule in an attempt to address the imbalance. The policy required teams to interview at least one minority candidate if they had any head coach or general manager vacancies. So the publication reportedly contacted all 32 teams to speak with them for the study.
However, only one organization agreed: the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their head coach is 50-year-old Mike Tomlin, who is Black. Tomlin led the Steelers to two Super Bowls in his first four years with the team, and he’s also never had a losing season in his 15 years as an NFL head coach.
And the Steelers are also ironically owned by Art Rooney II, son of Dan Rooney, for whom the guideline was named.
“Most of us were not expecting it to turn in the wrong direction the way it did and to the extent it did and over the time period that it did,” Rooney told the Post. “I don’t think there’s any one reason that you could point to.”
“It’s obviously a trend that was not expected [and] not welcomed… It may have taken us too long to get to this point,” he added. “We’re addressing the situation. But I’m just pleased to say at this point that I do think there’s a consensus and a collective effort to address it.”
Earlier this year, the NFL found itself embroiled in a controversy with former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores. He was canned in January, despite having a winning record in the last two of his three years with the team. And then, he later sued the NFL, alleging that teams were holding fake interviews only to comply with the Rooney Rule, but without the genuine intention of hiring a minority candidate.
Learn more about what the Post found when it comes to reasons for a drop-off in the number of Black head coaches in the NFL by clicking here.