Between Robert Kraft getting caught up in a sex slave scandal, Odell Beckham Jr. getting traded to the Cleveland Browns, and a new rule for reviewing pass interference plays, the NFL has had a pretty eventful offseason.
But within all the changes, hirings, and firings, there weren’t many minorities hired in coaches staffs around the league—and Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is talking about it. Those aren’t just his personal feelings, because as it turns out the numbers don’t lie.
“I think the numbers speak for themselves in that regard. It was a disappointing hiring cycle for someone who watches it like I do, knowing some of the deserving men I do who I thought should have gotten an opportunity and didn’t. But we’ll continue to work and fight for equality and opportunity,” the coach told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Gerry Dulac.
He’s right. He, the Los Angeles Chargers’ Anthony Lynn, and the Miami Dolphins’ Brian Flores are the only three coaches of color in the league, which begs the question: are all the franchises abiding by the Rooney Rule? Because of the 15 head coaches hired over the past two seasons, only two were Black.
The Rooney Rule came about in 2003 when infamous lawyer Johnnie Cochran and labor law attorney Cyrus Mehri released a study that detailed a “dismal record of minority hiring.” According to ESPN, at that time, 70 percent of the league’s players, 28 percent of the assistant coaches, and six percent of the head coaches were Black. It was unfair, and a new rule was implemented where people of color had to be considered for posts.
Named after the former chairman of the league’s diversity committee and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, the Rooney Rule was born. The rule was expanded to job openings like general manager and front office positions in 2009.
“I think that’s what the Rooney Rule speaks to, equality within the opportunity,” Tomlin said. “We’ll continue to fight for that, not only in terms of head coaching searches, but maybe other areas of the profession as well. I know there’s some discussions in the offseason regarding some of that.”