NFL Approves Significant Changes To Rooney Rule, But Tables Most Controversial Proposal

The league conducted a virtual owners meeting earlier today, part of which entailed the voting on two resolutions to expand the scope and authority behind the Rooney Rule, which promotes diversity hiring at the head coaching and head executive levels of the NFL (and has also been applied to other industries).

One proposal passed; the other was tabled to a later date. Despite previous reports that the league was intensely lobbying for and believed it had the support to pass it, the more controversial proposal that would see teams gain a boost in draft pick positioning by hiring minorities to head coach or general manager jobs has not passed at this time, but will be revisited at a later date.

More significantly, the resolution that did pass clears a major obstacle for position coach advancement, as teams are no longer permitted to block requests from other teams to interview position coaches for coordinator jobs.

The primary gateway to head coaching positions is landing coordinator positions, and minorities are particularly poorly-represented in this area, especially on the offensive side of the ball, where 30 of the 32 offensive coordinators (or those who serve in that role) are white. Only Eric Bieniemy, who is a frequent ‘token’ interviewee, and Byron Leftwich currently hold that role.

Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II is the chairman of the Workplace Diversity Committee, and earlier this year made it clear that there were changes coming to the Rooney Rule, as it is informally known, named after his late father.

We believe these new policies demonstrate the NFL Owners’ commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in the NFL”, he said earlier today in a statement. “The development of young coaches and young executives is a key to our future. These steps will assure coaching and football personnel are afforded a fair and equitable opportunity to advance throughout our football operations. We also have taken important steps to ensure that our front offices, which represent our clubs in so many different ways, come to reflect the true diversity of our fans and our country”.

In addition to position coaches, the rule also parallels front office responsibilities, as clubs can no longer block individuals from interviewing for assistant general managerial positions, either. All teams must also submit an ‘organizational reporting structure’ to make it clear what each coach’s responsibilities are, to determine if a job is a ‘bona fide’ coordinator position.

Additional changes that did not need to be put to a vote include the requirement that teams now interview at least two minority candidates for head coaching vacancies from outside of the organization, and it now expands to coordinator roles as well; at least one minority candidate must be interviewed for each coordinator job opening, and for any senior football operations position.

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