NFL’s Rooney Rule to be amended to require more hiring diversity
In this Nov. 30, 2008, file photo, Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy watches from the sideline as his team plays the Cleveland Browns during the third quarter of an NFL football game in Cleveland. Dungy is the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl and has been a strong advocate of more diversity in coaching hires. | Amy Sancetta / AP

We all knew it wasn’t working. The lack of diversity among NFL head coaches and coordinators was easy to spot—only two African-American candidates have been hired for 19 open head coach slots in the last three years, and there are only two minority general team mangers amongst the 32 teams.

And now, 18 years after the Rooney rule, named after late Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, was adopted—requiring the interview of minority candidates for those coveted top spots—the NFL is looking to amend the rule to require more interviews of minority candidates, two people close to the decision anonymously told the Associated Press.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the people explained that in reaction to a lack of diversity progress in hiring for those positions, the NFL will require teams to interview at least two minority candidates from outside the league, and at least one minority candidate must be interviewed for a coordinator’s spot.

While the original 2002 rule had some impact, in recent years its ability to encourage minority hiring has fallen flat.

“Clearly we are not where we want to be on this level,” Goodell said during the annual Super Bowl news conference in January 2020. “We have a lot of work that has gone into not only the Rooney Rule but our policy overall. It’s clear we need to change and do something different.”

At the same news conference, Goodell signaled the league would “have a series of meetings” scheduled “over the next month to get that kind of dialogue going, to continue dialogue to try to determine what are the solutions so we can have those better outcomes,” he said.

During a Tuesday conference call, replacing the scheduled in-person league spring meeting due to the COVID-19 pandemic, team owners will vote on two proposed resolutions allowing assistant coaches to be interviewed at any time for coordinators’ jobs elsewhere. The other proposal would use draft pick positions as an incentive to hire more diverse candidates in the head coach and general manager position.

These changes were first reported by NFL Network.

At the end of the 2018 season, eight head coaches lost their jobs, while only one opening was filled with a minority candidate, Brian Flores, hired by the Miami Dolphins.

Following last season, five jobs opened up and one minority, Ron Rivera, was hired, by Washington.

“What I think has happened is people have said, `Let me interview a minority candidate to satisfy the rule, and then I can get on with this hiring process or hire who I want to,” said Tony Dungy, the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl and an advocate for diversity in the NFL.

“There’s so much pressure now on all of them to do it quickly, get the No. 1 candidate, put together a staff. Nobody wants to take their time. That is the major problem. You get people interviewed who may not fit what the team may be looking for.”


Al Neal
Al Neal

Award winning journalist Al Neal is PW associate editor for labor and politics. He is also the chief photographer for People's World. He is a member of the Chicago News Guild, Society of Professional Journalists, Professional Photographers of America, National Sports Media Association, and The Ernest Brooks Foundation.