Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Underlying Issues with the Rooney Rule

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced today that the league is seriously considering expanding the boundaries of the Rooney Rule. The Rooney Rule, established in 2003 by Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, requires that any NFL team looking to fill a coaching vacancy must interview at least one minority candidate. Until the news came out today about the possible expansion, the rule only applied to coaching positions, not front office jobs. The proposed expansion would add the hiring of general managers to the list of jobs that would require minority interviews. Perfect. I think it would be absolutely acceptable to do that.

As a matter of fact, I think the rule has good intentions because among the NFL players, the group is extremely diverse; a healthy dose of white, african-american, and even samoan/pacific islanders. It is important for the professional sports leagues and teams to mirror their player base in terms of their own front office personnel. I think it just helps interleague relations as well as eases the minds of concerned outsiders that never believe their demographic is getting represented.

Now since the rule was established, it has made me ponder its implications and today's development just made me want to write about my thoughts on the issue. The rule was put into effect in 2003, as I mentioned, and since then the hiring of African-Americans went from 6% to 22%. The good news for Dan Rooney is that his rule is working. And hey, there have been some great minority coaches hired since the rule was implemented: Mike Tomlin and Lovie Smith to name two. Both of whom went to Super Bowls, unfortunately the latter didn't actually win the game.

Time for my issues with the rule. Do Mike Tomlin, Lovie Smith, or Raheem Morris (new Bucs head coach) feel like they were hired because of the rule? Are they left wondering if they'd be in the same place if they weren't a minority? I'm sure, to a certain, point, they are. Now, to this day, there has not been a single team that has admittedly hired somebody because of the rule in place (obviously), but it makes you wonder.

And if you are a minority coach and you are not wondering if the rule had to do with your hiring then perhaps you may be a little offended that there is a rule at all. I think that, to a degree, this rule can be taken as a bit insulting for some minority coaches. If you were to go up to Mike Tomlin today and say "Boy, aren't you glad that they put in a rule so that you have a better chance of getting hired?"...I think he'd be pissed at you. He has a right to be because he probably knows that he didn't need some stupid rule to get him hired. He knows deep down that he can coach the game of football better than the other candidates.

Let's face it, African-Americans and other minorities have been playing this game for a long time; practically as long as white people. There are a ton of great coaching minds out there that are minorities. In this day and age, I would be very surprised if teams still make racially-charged decisions when they hire. And if they do, then I must be naive to our nation's current societal values. The fact is that I think the Rooney Rule is slightly unnecessary and I by no means say that in a negative way.

I just think that if you were to step into a prominent minority coach's shoes today, you would realize that these men have tremendous confidence in their football knowledge and their coaching abilities. Moreover, I would almost guarantee you that many of them would say that they don't need the rule to be recognized as a quality employee in this league.

I have tremendous respect for Dan Rooney, the Steelers owner; not only for what he has done in Pittsburgh, but his drive to increase diversity in the NFL. However, the Rooney Rule seems to slap minorities in the face as much as it helps them get jobs. In my eyes, NFL teams are going to hire based on what a candidate brings to the football field, not based on ethnicity. And if teams are hiring based on ethnicity these days, then that is just absurd. If I'm a minority coaching candidate, I'd hope that a team hired me because of my credentials and not because they were forced to interview me. And if I'm a minority coach that is confident in my own abilities, I'd certainly also like to think that I didn't need some stinkin' rule to help me get hired.

Who knows, maybe next year they'll extend the Rooney Rule so that includes the mandatory interviewing of redheads. Maybe then I can get the job in sports that I've always dreamed of.

Keep reading the blogs and I'll keep writing them. Feel free to comment, I'm always up for some good discussion.


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