Head Coaches in the NFL

Mike Tomlin, head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers

The NFL is the United States, premier football league. Numbers show that in the NFL, about 70% of active players are African Americans. It is clear then to see that the league is dominated by African Americans on the field by players, however if we take a closer look at the numbers for the coaches it is quickly visible that the diversity does not translate to all jobs in the NFL. In particular when looking at the job of head coach and high-ranking positions in the team as an executive it is clear to see that the minority is not nearly as well represented as the players are.

            The reasons for this are multiple, firstly by pure numbers it is expected that as a smaller population group that Blacks and Hispanics will not have as many representatives. This in my opinion is silly as that obviously doesn’t seem to stop the number of athletes from growing. However even when this is taken into consideration the numbers are still way off. Of the 32 teams only 4 of them have a head coach that is a minority, two Black and one Hispanic.

            The NFL has acknowledged the lack of diversity in its higher post and in 2003 the Rooney Rule came into effect. The rule states that each organization looking to hire a new coach they must interview at least one minority candidate. However, in practice that is not always realized. When the raiders hired Jon Gruden, it was not known whether they conducted a good faith interview with a minority candidate. I would love to add on to this by saying that the NFL is tackling this issue head on. However apart from the Rooney Rule which when it first appeared held so much promise there seems to be nothing in the pipelines over at the NBA regrading this situation.

Let us then look at why this is a problem to begin with. As stated before roughly 70% of active players are African Americans, this compared to the small percentage of head coaches leaves me wondering how the players and coaches get along. That is to say that when it comes to certain things that tranced football such as the protests of police brutality and racial inequality can the head coaches and the heads of these organization who so often are white sympathize with their players. I believe they can be understanding and compassionate but to truly understand how most of their players are feeling doesn’t seem feasible. This is because they haven’t lived the lives the players have and therefore haven’t had to deal with the casual racism that black Americans are exposed to on almost a daily basis. I relate this to basically any reading we have done so far in this semester. It is a common occurrence for people to not fully understand the plight of the back people in America as they do not live it themselves.

To fix this problem will not be an easy task. I think that the best way to tackle it is to face it head on and to establish organization within the NFL dedicated to diversifying all positions. That is not to say that NFL teams should just start hiring minority coaches to look good but to give minority coaches a chance which doesn’t seem to have been the case up until this point. The idea of a kind of union seems to be interesting as well as a being united against this problem will probably help everyone. Then it would make sense for everyone in the NFL who is a minority to band together and have their voices heard. I relate this to the readings on many of the earlier black scholars such as Walker in the sense that the idea of coming together in numbers will give strength to the people.

African Americans are without a doubt a bedrock of the professional sports industry, players like Odell Beckham Jr. and Cam Newton become superstars and become giants in the society, it is about time that the all important jobs in the back rooms, away from the limelight also start getting more diverse, it is often these positions that get overlooked but really are some of the most important.


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