“Probably The Early Stages Of Women Entering The Coaching Ranks” | The Rooney Rule Evolves To Include Women, But Is That At The Expense Of “Ethnic Minorities”?

Image Credit: Twitter D. Orlando Ledbetter

The NFL is continuing to address its diversity in hiring practices, and yesterday, the league took new corrective measures to level the playing field.

For the 2022 season, each of the 32 NFL clubs now are required to hire a minority offensive assistant coach. According to the policy, the most significant change is that the offensive assistant coach hire can be either “a female or a member of an ethnic or racial minority.”

The decision was announced at the special league meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, yesterday. The NFL’s Workplace Diversity Committee rolled out the changes to “strengthen and enhance the effectiveness of the NFL’s Rooney Rule,” according to a statement from the NFL.

Rooney Rule Evolution

“Since the inception of the Rooney Rule, we have seen the rule adopted across business sectors and considered an industry best practice to increase diversity,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell via statement.

“The policy updates made today will bolster the current Rooney Rule requirements and are intended to create additional opportunities for diverse candidates to be identified, interviewed, and ultimately hired when a vacancy becomes available.”

The League has been challenged to do better concerning diversity hires, and the new policy enhancements are part of the League’s steps to commit to diversity and inclusion.

New Rules

According to the NFL, the new enhancements to the Rooney Rule include that “clubs must interview at least one diverse candidate from the Career Development Advisory Panel list or a diverse candidate not currently employed by the club.”

Additionally, “clubs must continue best practice recommendation of considering multiple diverse candidates.”

“Clubs must maintain complete records and furnish to the League upon Commissioner’s request; and if final decision-maker is involved in the beginning, he/she must be involved through the conclusion of the process.”

Process To Progress

Additionally, the committee advocated robust accountability to ensure that clubs do not fail in compliance or evade the Rooney Rule’s outlined new processes. ​

However, the new question will be can teams circumvent hiring ethnic minority candidates by leaning more toward women hires? The rule now specifies that a “minority” is either a woman or an ethnic minority, but should a different rule directed solely at women come to fruition?

“The truth of the matter is that as of today, at least, there aren’t many women in the pool in terms of head coach,” said Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II this week.

A Legacy Of Inclusion

Rooney II is also the NFL Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee chairman.

“We hope that is going to change over the years, but for that reason we didn’t see it as inhibiting the number of interviews for racial minorities at this point in time. Obviously, we can address that as time goes on, but for now we didn’t see that as an issue.

“Really, we are looking at probably the early stages of women entering the coaching ranks, so we may be a little ways away before that becomes a problem.”

According to the NFL, the Rooney Rule changes were developed in consultation with several independent groups, including The Fritz Pollard Alliance, which advocates for diversity and job equality in the league.

No Bad Energy

The NFL adopted the Rooney Rule in 2003, which required every team with a head coaching vacancy to interview at least one or more diverse candidates.

The rule expanded in 2009, including general manager jobs and equivalent front-office positions.

With Brian Flores’ lawsuit still ongoing since he began his new role as a defensive assistant with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the NFL is attempting to change its ways. However, its evolution must figure out a way for the interests of one underserved group to cannibalize those of another.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.