Jesse Jackson asks NFL to punish Lions

Feb. 6, 2003 at 7:16 PM
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CHICAGO, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Rev. Jesse Jackson has demanded the NFL investigate the hiring of Steve Mariucci, saying the Detroit Lions violated the league's policy requiring teams to consider at least one minority for coaching positions.

The Lions targeted Mariucci as their coach after he was fired by the San Francisco 49ers on Jan. 15 and did not conduct any other in-person interviews.

"Steve Mariucci may be a fine coach and may have emerged as the selection anyway," Jackson said. "However the selection process is flawed if no minority candidates were given serious consideration as the NFL's policy dictates."

Under criticism by civil rights attorneys Johnnie Cochran and Cyrus Mehri for their practice of hiring minorities, the NFL implemented a comprehensive program to promote diversity in their coaching and front office ranks based upon recommendations of the NFL Committee on Workplace Diversity.

Appointed by Commissioner Paul Tagliabue on Oct. 31, the committee is headed by Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney. Under recommendations from the committee, NFL team owners strongly agreed on the principle that any club seeking a head coach will interview one or more minority applicants for the position.

Rooney criticized the Lions Tuesday, saying their search "fell short of what the committee recommends for all clubs as agreed."

Jackson said Rooney's comment on Detroit's selection process, "in itself, is the smoking gun."

Jackson urged for Detroit to be heavily penalized, including fines and disqualification from the upcoming college draft, or else "other teams will violate the hiring process."

There are three black head coaches in the league with the recent hire of Marvin Lewis by the Cincinnati Bengals.

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