NFL Record Seven African-American GMs To Begin 2022 Season

(WCCO/Screenshot)

The NFL has long been known for its lack of diversity as it pertains to ownership, general managers and coaches.

In a league where nearly 70 percent of its employees are Black, the leadership positions are held by white males. In an effort to fix the huge disparity in those areas the NFL has stressed hiring qualified minority general managers and head coaches. While the head coaching hires haven’t increased much, with just three Black head coaches and five total minority coaches, there has been a noticeable increase in the amount of general managers hired.

Five of the last six GM hires have been Black.

There are currently seven African-American general managers in the NFL. This offseason the Bears hired Ryan Poles, and the Vikings hired Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. Those two join Martin Mayhew (Commanders), Terry Fontenot (Falcons), Brad Holmes (Lions), Andrew Berry (Browns), and the longest tenured of the seven, Chris Grier (Dolphins).

Cowboys roster constructor and personnel man Will McClay has turned down numerous opportunities to be a GM or he could have added to the growing number. In all, it’s been a huge jump compared to where those numbers stood prior to the recent hiring spree.

Relationships Play A Role In Being Hired

Poles and McClay credit their positional rise to the strong relationships they’ve been able to build throughout their time in the league.

In fact, C. Keith Harrison, a sports medicine professor at UCF, who’s the lead author of the NFL Diversity and Inclusion Report, took it a little further, saying this.

“People say time is money. Trust is money, and people invest in relationships that they trust. We have data that when you network and connect, engage with people that are different from you by gender and race, you better have a better chance of being what we call upwardly mobile.”

Chicago Bears Hire Ryan Poles As GM, Vikings Hire Kwesi Adolfo-Mensah As GM | NFL Now Has Record Seven Black General Managers

That sounds a lot like it’s not what you know but rather who you know.

McClay says is vital that NFL owners (96 percent white men), get to know the minority candidates. Which goes back to trust and confidence that they can do the job.

“Jerry didn’t know me until I got to be able to spend time with, talk to him, to let him know how much I knew about football, how much I knew about relationships, and trying to get that together.

“He wouldn’t have known that if I didn’t get that opportunity.”

New Bears GM Ryan Poles shares those same sentiments and credits his relationship with former Chiefs GM Scott Pioli as a huge boost for him and other minority candidates.

Will GM Hires Lead To More Black HC Hires?

With seven Black GMs currently in tow, one has to wonder if we’ll see more Blacks get head coach opportunities. It’s cool to see Blacks as coordinators and position coaches, but there are also plenty of qualified Blacks who can lead a team.

Currently, only Mike Tomlin (Steelers), Lovie Smith (Texans) and Todd Bowles (Buccaneers) can say stake claim to being a Black head coach. That’s just three out of 32 NFL franchises. Add in Ron Rivera (Commanders) and Robert Saleh (Jets) and that’s just five minority head coaches in the entire NFL.

And while seven GMs isn’t a ton, it’s a little better than 20 percent. Still much higher than the roughly 10 percent that represents the head coach fraternity.


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