The NFL owners announced during the annual league meeting today down in Florida that the league is creating a new committee, called the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee. The eight-person committee will be helmed by Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II, who offered comments on its establishment earlier today.
While he began by pointing out perceived progress that has been made in diversity hiring at a variety of levels, he ultimately conceded that “we’re still not seeing the kind of progress that we would like to see on the head coaching front”, and talked about ways to improve that moving forward. Part of that is attempting to increase diversity among ownership itself, the ultimate arbiter of all decisions in the game.
All NFL clubs issued a joint statement upon the news of the creation of the DEI committee, stating that “The NFL member clubs support the important goal of increasing diversity among ownership”. It goes on, “when evaluating a prospective ownership group of a member club pursuant to NFL policies, the membership will regard it as a positive and meaningful factor if the group includes diverse individuals who would have a significant equity stake in and involvement with the club, including serving as the controlling owner of the club”.
This is a significant current topic, as the Denver Broncos organization is in the midst of a change of ownership at the moment. There is not a lot of representation among minorities—whether as minority owners or majority owners, the latter represented by Shad Khan of the Jacksonville Jaguars—and many advocates believe that is part of the reason so few head coaching and similar jobs are ultimately filled by minorities.
Rooney did point out that there are some minorities among ownership, including former Steelers wide receiver John Stallworth in Pittsburgh’s own ownership group as a minority owner. “Obviously, it’s something where we’re just starting to see some minority participation on some of these teams now. We expect that to grow, and we expect this statement hopefully will open the door at least for encouraging minorities to participate”, he went on.
While there are no hard and fast rules put in place, he added that the league will view any purchase proposals for ownership that include diverse groups “as a positive” when the league’s owners consider the bid. They must be approved first before being accepted.
“Either way, the door will be open to minority ownership”, he concluded, and the joint statement “hopefully will open the door at least for encouraging minorities to participate”. Of course, ownership change doesn’t happen entirely frequently.
The Rooney family has held dominant control over ownership of the Steelers since its founding in 1933, with Art Rooney II representing the third generation of ownership. Stallworth joined a widened pool of owners with a minority stake in the Steelers in 2009.