Clemens: NFL’s Rooney Rule doesn’t work; minority candidates continue to be shut out

Kansas City Chiefs running backs coach Eric Bieniemy shouted during drills between runnings backs and linebackers on Monday, Aug. 4, 2014 during Kansas City Chiefs summer training camp practice at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Mo. (David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/MCT/TNS)
Kansas City Chiefs running backs coach Eric Bieniemy shouted during drills between runnings backs and linebackers on Monday, Aug. 4, 2014 during Kansas City Chiefs summer training camp practice at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Mo. (David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/MCT/TNS)

Daric Clemens is a senior journalism news major and is a columnist for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. 

Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and Saquon Barkley are just a few of the up-and-coming superstars in the NFL. All three of these athletes have at least two things in common with each other. First, they are all very talented football players. However, I want to focus on their second similarity: They are all minorities.

As a matter of fact, 70.1 percent of players in the NFL are minorities, and only 27.4 percent of the players are white, according to the 2019 Racial and Gender Report Card. To some people, this probably seems like a good thing for minorities, as they are given a chance to showcase their talent to the world and also mostly make good money while doing it.

Although it’s great to see minorities get this opportunity on the field, there’s a bigger problem that happens off the field in the power positions around the league. Minorities are still not given a fair shot at becoming a head coach in the NFL. 

It is a problem that has been around ever since the NFL came to existence in 1922. The league has attempted to make changes, such as the Rooney Rule, which was installed in 2003. This policy requires NFL teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. 

On paper, it might sound good, but it hasn’t made the system better, and minority candidates have continued to get the shaft year after year.

At the beginning of the 2019 NFL season, there were just four minorities that were the head coaches of a team. Now, at the end of the 2019-20 season, multiple head coaches have been fired from their duty. Five teams have already hired new coaches, and only one was is a minority, as Ron Rivera, a Latino, is the new coach of the Washington Redskins. Rivera was just fired by the Carolina Panthers.

According to ESPN, in the past 20 head coaching hires, only three of them have been minorities being put at that position. The problem is continuous, and this season, it only got worse, as the percentages were the lowest they have been since 2013. 

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh of the San Francisco 49ers looks on during the NFC Divisional Round Playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings at Levi's Stadium on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020 in Santa Clara, Calif. (Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images/TNS)

It’s not a case of lack of experience either. We have seen many white men get the opportunity to take over a team recently with no NFL head coaching in their backgrounds, such as Sean McVay, Freddie Kitchens and Kliff Kingsbury. But the same thing can’t typically be said for minority coaches. 

The football knowledge and talent is there also. A lot of times, offensive and defensive coordinators are hired by other teams to get promoted to the head coach position. People like Eric Bieniemy, offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs, coached the Chiefs' offense to No. 1 in yards and points scored in the 2018 season. Another example of a minority coordinator with success is Robert Saleh, defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, arguably has the best defense in the NFL this season. 

Both of these coordinators are a part of the minority group and will most likely not be acquainted as a head coach next season because there are not any more open NFL jobs available at the moment. 

It all comes down to white men just having a better chance of landing that spot as a head coach, and it starts with the people that hire the candidates. The NFL only has two minority owners, and there is only one general manager in the league right now that is a minority. 

These are discouraging numbers, and changes need to be made. There needs to be a more concrete policy that allows minorities a fair opportunity at a head coaching job. There are too many loopholes around the Rooney Rule. You can interview multiple coaches with no intention of actually hiring them because they usually know who they want to hire beforehand.

Minorities have an equal opportunity to be on the field, with more than half players being minorities, as they entertain fans around the country, helping the NFL be the most popular sport in the United States. But when it comes to positions of power, the same energy is not put into getting minorities hired in. 

The NFL has an unjustified problem with minorities advancing to higher positions, and there are no signs of this issue getting better any time soon. Something needs to give because these candidates need to get the chance to prove their worth.  

Contact Daric Clemens with comments at diclemens@bsu.edu or on Twitter @DaricClemens

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