Civil rights leaders challenged NFL team owners to overhaul their hiring practices for head coaching and top executive positions by setting measurable goals for recruiting and hiring diverse candidates. The leaders called for the creation of an advisory commission to make recommendations and establish guidelines.
National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial, National Action Network Founder and President Rev. Al Sharpton, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation President and CEO Melanie Campbell, and National African American Clergy Network co-convener Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner met virtually today with Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II, Atlanta Falcons Owner & Chairman Arthur Blank, Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwell, Baltimore Ravens Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome, and Houston Texans limited partner Javier Loya, along with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and other top NFL executives.
The meeting was the continuation of a discussion that began with Goodell last week, in which the leaders called for a replacement of the Rooney Rule, a policy established in 2003 that requires teams to interview candidates of color for head coaching and senior football operation positions.
“The League’s recent focus on racial equity and social justice has not penetrated its own hiring procedures when it comes to head coaches,” Morial said. “The NFL has produced an astonishing pool of Black coaching talent that owners routinely have ignored when filling the top job. We are committed to working with the owners and the League to bring the spirit of ‘Inspire Change’ to the head coaching rosters.”
Sharpton said, “The meeting with NFL Commissioner Goodell and the team owners was a step in the right direction, but we want timetables and goals to crystalize their commitment. We can be as antagonistic or as cooperative as needed, but we will not sit idly until this issue is resolved.
“We hope that the purpose of bringing on Loretta Lynch is to solve the Flores lawsuit, not to fight it,” he added. “We want justice for Brian Flores. We enjoyed the Super Bowl halftime show but we want a full-time commitment from the NFL”
“It’s not enough simply to interview more candidates of color,” Johnson said, noting that there is not a single Black owner of an NFL team. “We need diverse voices in every room where major decisions are being made.”
Williams-Skinner pointed to the substantial public investment in NFL teams and the non-profit status of the NFL, saying, “This is not simply a private issue that can be left for the owners to resolve on their own. We cannot allow the community that is the very lifeblood of professional football to be shut out of its governance and administration.” She also raised a series of questions regarding NFL teams hiring process, accountability, policies, and the workplace diversity committee that Commissioner Goodell committed to provide written responses.