Owners in the National Football League aren’t too fond of black people having power.
On the field, it can be traced back to roles like middle linebacker, center, and quarterback, as examples of black players having to battle stereotypes just to play a position in which decisions are made for others.
In the front office, we can point to the fact that there has never been a black owner in the league’s history, while the NFL only features two black general managers and three black head coaches amongst a workforce that’s 70 percent black.
And on Tuesday afternoon, league owners confirmed that they can’t even be bribed to give black people opportunities.
According to NFL.com’s Jim Trotter, owners have decided to table a resolution that would have incentivized the hiring of minority coaches and general managers by rewarding teams with improved draft positions.
“This is generally what they do if they don’t think there is enough support for a proposal — go back to the drawing board to improve it rather than let it fail,” tweeted NFL.com’s Judy Battista about the owner’s indecision.
Translation: The league’s bribe wasn’t good enough.
However, aspiring black coaches and executives in the league did receive a bit of positive news on Tuesday, as Trotter reported that the owners voted to approve a resolution that will stop teams from blocking assistant coaches from interviewing for other positions. That means that coaches and front office personnel now have the ability to interview for head coaching, general manager, and other non-lateral coordinator positions at will.
This news comes at a time in which the league recently amended the flawed Rooney Rule, which will now require teams to interview at least two external minority candidates for vacant head coaching positions and at least one minority candidate for all open coordinator jobs. ESPN’s Kimberley Martin also reported on Tuesday that all teams are being required to create a diversity and inclusion plan within the next year.
“The facts are, we have a broken system,” Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president of football operations, reportedly said on a conference call.
But, before you go giving the league a huge pat on the back, you have to ask, “Why now?”
The league’s disgusting history when it comes to hiring, and maintaining, black coaches and minorities in front-office positions has always been a black eye. Which is why it made no sense to bring this issue up during a pandemic when no sports are being played. The league willingly made its biggest flaw a constant headline during a time in which people have nothing else to talk about in the sports world.
However, we’ve seen the league do this before.
Back in May 2018, the league announced its new anthem policy. And while it wound up being scrapped a few weeks later, the damage was already done. In a time in which kneeling during the national anthem was all but extinct, the owners brought it right back to the forefront, angering players all over again.
The announcement also took place on the same day that the arrest video of Milwaukee Bucks guard Sterling Brown was released, showing him being slammed to the ground and tasered by a group of cops.
The commissioner of the NFL literally held a press conference about how teams would be fined if players chose to take a knee or raise a first in peaceful protest against police brutality, hours before the video of a black NBA player being the victim of police brutality was released.
The NFL’s message was made clear that day. They don’t give a damn about black people.
This is why incentives, or bribes, seem to be the only thing that can bring about some sort of change, or “progress.” However, it’s not like we haven’t seen this tactic used before in situations outside of sports. Historically, Chicago has been one of the most segregated cities in America, as incentives have always been a way to prevent “white flight” from the city to the suburbs.
But, while the NFL’s diversity issues were created by white owners, it’s not like they haven’t had some outside help along the way.
“This book and these names will go back to Baltimore,” said former Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome, as he held up a program at last summer’s inaugural Quarterback Coaching Summit in Atlanta that was hosted by the league and the Black College Football Hall of Fame.
“I didn’t know that it was this many African-Americans that were involved in coaching quarterbacks, and offensive coordinators on the college level. Now I do, and now I can act on it.
“Now I have me a bible that I can use.”
The reaction in the room wasn’t a positive one, as one of the few black men in the league’s history to hold the position of general manager was admitting that even he hadn’t done his homework when it came to scouting black offensive coaches in a time in which 91 percent of offensive coordinators that went on to become head coaches since 2009 have been white, according to a recent study by the Global Sport and Education Lab at Arizona State University.
With Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins) and Andrew Berry (Cleveland Browns) serving as the league’s only black general managers today, if progress is made it will be because they did what Newsome didn’t.
And as far as the owners’ decision to table the resolution, they’re more than likely holding out for a bribe that’s as good as the one Jay-Z probably got.