It was only a matter of time before we heard from Black coaches around the league, regarding the bombshell dropped by former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores in his class-action discrimination lawsuit against the NFL, Dolphins, Denver Broncos and New York Giants.
Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and assistant head coach Duce Staley addressed their specific experiences interviewing for head coaching positions in the NFL.
“I just know when I had a chance to interview it was awesome,” Staley said. “Awesome experience for me, just to be able to sit in that sit and go through the process. So I can only speak about my situation and what I’ve been through.”
“No, I’m not going to say that,” he said. “I know that everything that was done in Philadelphia when I was there, it was fair, it was an awesome opportunity. I took advantage of it. I learned from it. And if I had to do it all over again, I’d do it all over again.”
Glenn also spoke positively of his experiences in the interview process with other franchises.
“For me personally, I thought all my interviews were really good interviews,” Glenn said. “And the way that I look at it, I get a chance to get in front of these GMs and other high-level people in the organization, just express my thoughts on how to be a head coach and how to run an organization. That’s the only way I look at it. So I don’t look at it as they’re fake interviews or anything like that.”
It never fails. A major institution is accused of systemic racism and the first people collective news media go to ask about it, are Black. It would be nice if some of my fellow media colleagues ask young White head coaches how they felt about getting these positions. What were the specifics of their interviews? Did they feel like interviews or formalities?
The answers to these questions would be telling. But here we are …
However something about the comments by Glenn and Staley made me squirm in my seat, and it took me to a scene from the classic 1967 film “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”
The movie, set against the backdrop of the civil rights movement stars the late legend Sidney Poitier as Dr. John Wade Prentice, a man attempting to navigate the concept of an interracial marriage.
The scene I’m referring to is when Poitier’s Prentice is changing and his fiancée’s maid, Matilda “Tillie” Binks, played by the late great Isabel Sanford, gives him a piece of her mind.
Tillie is a woman in her 60s in 1967. There is a level of racism and horrific times we are to assume she’s endured. The idea of a member of her race “getting above himself” by marrying a white woman doesn’t sit well with her.
She associates him with members of the Black Panther Party and other “troublemakers” who are going to get the white folks angry or upset, which in turn would make it hard on the “good” Black folks.
Many Black people held similar views at the time and many Black people hold similar views now. There is an idea that you need to go along to get along. Don’t rock the boat and everything will be OK.
To be clear, I can’t state with any certainty that’s how Staley and Glenn feel as it relates to the NFL’s hiring practices. If they say their experiences have been above board and fair we have to take them at their words.
But we also know if Staley and Glenn want to continue to be a part of the head coaching interview process in the NFL, they had to distance themselves from the Flores lawsuit. What else were they going to say?
That’s the plight of Black people in America when we are trying to ascend to heights that are manned by white gatekeepers. The process might be a sham and we likely know it deep down. But what is the alternative?
We do know that the NFL decision makers and gatekeepers can and have been punitive. Paging Colin Kaepernick … Hello? And Flores’ lawsuit will likely kill his career as well.
If we want to see systemic change it will require sacrifice from some. Flores has taken the first metaphorical bullet. It remains to be seen who will join him in the name of true progress.
More news from our partners: