“If There Are No Benchmarks … And No Penalties … We’ll Be Right Back At Square One” | Angela Rye Sounds Off On NFL Rooney Rule Revision

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The NFL made updates to the Rooney Rule earlier this week. Women are now included in all coaching and front office interview requirements. Teams will not be forced to interview a woman, but if they do, she would count toward fulfilling the Rooney Rule requirement. Second, only interviews conducted in person will count toward the Rooney Rule requirement. D.C. lawyer, strategist and political pundit Angela Rye doesn’t believe the enhancements will work to change much if there aren’t any benchmarks or punishment.

“It’s about metrics of success,” said Rye. “If there are no benchmarks put in place to ensure that owners are accountable to the league, and [no] penalties assigned when they fall short, I think we’ll be right back at square one.”

The NFL’s record in diversity and inclusion is abysmal. In a league where nearly 70 percent of the players are Black, the representation among offensive coordinators, head coaches and general managers don’t reflect that 70 percent number or anything close.

The Rooney Rule is a joke and Rye is correct. For years owners and their decision makers have brought Black and minority “candidates” so they could check off the box, and not be accused of racial bias in hiring.

This is major point of contention in an ongoing lawsuit by Pittsburgh Steelers assistant coach Brian Flores, that names the league, the Miami Dolphins, New York Giants and other franchises as setting up sham interviews to comply with the rule.

Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the league’s poor track record on diversity and inclusion in his Super Bowl LVI press conference in February.

“We look at the same numbers,” Goodell said when asked about the number of franchises in the 102 year history of the league that haven’t had at least one Black head coach. “They are part of the effort in looking at how do we become more effective in our policies and procedures. We work really hard. We believe in diversity, we believe in it as a value. … We just have to do a better job. We have to look is there another thing we can do to make sure we’re attracting that best talent and making our league inclusive.”

Of course there hasn’t been much change. There is no incentive to actually follow through with hiring qualified Black and minority candidates.

If, say, over the course of seven seasons, a team had four to five different head coaches and not one was Black or a minority perhaps they should face some kind of penalty? Losing a draft pick perhaps and/or a financial penalty?

How long would that team continue with sham interviews? Hello, New York Giants…

There needs to be teeth behind the Rooney Rule or what’s the point? The billionaire owners will likely only begin doing the right thing once they are punished financially. They’ve proven they can follow the “letter of the rule” but not truly embrace its “spirit”.

The outcome of the pending Flores lawsuit will go a long way in potentially reshaping the Rooney Rule and minority hiring in the NFL. We will have to wait and see what, if anything, is able to be uncovered.