Roger Goodell on low minority hiring in NFL: 'We need to change'

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday in Miami that the league is not where it "wants to be" as far as minority candidates being hired for front offices and head coach jobs. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday in Miami that the league is not where it "wants to be" as far as minority candidates being hired for front offices and head coach jobs. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

MIAMI, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday the league needs to modify a key rule to encourage more hiring of minority head coaches and front office executives.

Goodell was in Miami to help oversee preparations for Sunday's Super Bowl between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers.


"Clearly, we are not where we want to be on this level," Goodell said at his annual state of the league address at the Hilton Miami Downtown. "We have a lot of work that's gone into not only the Rooney Rule, but our policies overall. It's clear we need to change and do something different."

The Rooney Rule requires each franchise to interview at least one minority candidate for open head coach and front office positions.


No black head coaching candidate came aboard during the NFL's most-recent hiring cycle, following the 2019 regular season. Only two minority general managers lead NFL teams.

Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn are the only black head coaches in the 32-team league. The Carolina Panthers fired Ron Rivera, who is Hispanic, in December. The Washington Redskins hired Rivera Jan. 1, increasing the league's minority head coach total to four.

A record eight minority head coaches led NFL teams at the start of the 2017 season, while about 70 percent of the players in the league are black.

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"I think it's weird when they say minority coaching candidates aren't getting jobs because we're [NFL players] majority African American and minority people," San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman said Monday at Super Bowl Opening Night.

"These coaches would be among our majority. And for these coaches not to get jobs? Minority players in our league are getting jobs."


NFL teams hired a total of 36 head coaches, offensive coordinators, defensive coordinators and general managers between Feb. 5, 2018, and Feb. 3, 2019, with just six minority candidates receiving those jobs.

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It has also been harder for minority head coaches to find NFL jobs after their first head coaching opportunity, the league admitted in its 2019 Diversity and Inclusion Report.

Since the start of the 1963 season, 112 white candidates have been hired as a head coach, offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator after one year of previous experience as an NFL head coach compared to 18 minority candidates with one year of head coach experience.

In that same time frame, 24 white candidates, were hired for those same positions after serving twice as an NFL head coach compared to only three minorities with that experience.

Goodell's comments came almost exactly a year after he told reporters during his 2019 state of the league address that the NFL doesn't "look at the success or failure of the Rooney Rule in one-year increments."

"There's no reason to expect we're going to have a different outcome [of hires] next year without those kinds of changes, and we've already begun engaging in those changes," Goodell said Wednesday. "Not just with our diversity committee, not just with the Fritz Pollard Alliance, but others. And trying to figure out what steps we could take next that would lead to better outcomes.


The Fritz Pollard Alliance is an an advocacy group that works to increase minority representation in NFL front offices, coaching staffs and scouting departments.

Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue formed the NFL's first diversity committee, composed of team owners, in 2002. The committee was formed after late attorney attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. criticized in a report the league's hiring practices related to black head coaches. Cochran also threatened to sue the NFL.

More than 20 franchises have hired minority head coaches since the Rooney Rule was established in 2003. The rule was named after former Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, who also was chairman of the league's diversity committee.

Steelers owner Art Rooney II, Dan Rooney's son, told NFL Network on Jan. 14 that the league is not in the right place when it comes to its number of minority coaches.

"I think where we are right now is not where we want to be, not where we need to be," Rooney said. "We need to take a step back and look at what's happening with our hiring processes."


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