The Washington Football Team has been criticized for any number of things ranging from accusations of a misogynistic working environment and exploiting cheerleaders to owner Daniel Snyder’s refusal to change the offensive Redskins name and logo, until pressure and threats from media, investors, shareholders and the NFL forced him too.
Snyder’s refusal to change the Redskins name caused sponsors to pull out, and even caused some minority owners to relinquish their shares of the team.
Adweek reported that a whooping 87 investors and shareholders, worth a combined $620 billion, sent a letter to three big dog sponsors–Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo—to support a name of change for the team.
The controversy with former quarterback Dwayne Haskins, coupled with another losing season made the Redskins an easy target for social media and head hunters of NFL culture.
With the firestorm and vitriol that these PR nightmares have brought WFT’s way, some folks have missed the progress that is being made within the organization as it relates to diversity hires at leadership positions.
It may seem contradictory to some, but there’s obviously an effort being made within the organization to change the culture and erase any signs of systemic oppression that may have existed.
For that, Snyder should be commended.
WFT Takes The Lead In Hiring Minorities To Leadership Gigs
WFT is the first team in NFL history to have minorities as head coach (Ron Rivera), GM (Martin Mayhew) and president (Jason Wright), AND the first to have a Black woman as a full-time assistant coach with the recent hiring of Jennifer King.
Jennifer King (First Black Woman AC)
— Lean In (@LeanInOrg) January 22, 2021
According to NFL.com, “The 2020 season was King’s first among the coaching ranks after she spent 2018 and 2019 interning in the offseason and during training camp for the Carolina Panthers. She worked primarily with running backs coach Randy Jordan.
Earlier this month, King made history alongside Bucs asst. defensive line coach Lori Locust and asst. strength and conditioning coach Maral Javadifar as the first female coaches to occupy opposing sidelines during a playoff game.
History will be made at 8:15pET tonight for the first @NFL playoff game with female coaches on both sidelines.
— Sam Rapoport (@samrap10) January 9, 2021
In between her two stints with the Panthers, King served as an assistant wide receiver coach and special teams assistant for the now-defunct Arizona Hotshots of the Alliance of American Football.
King also served as a quality control coach with Dartmouth College in 2019 prior to joining Washington. Dartmouth finished 9-1 and won an Ivy League title during her time there.”
Ron Rivera (Head Coach)
Rivera, fired after a long, successful run with Cam Newton and the Panthers, was brought in to help “rebuild the culture in DC.”
Rivera has championed diversity in football throughout his career. The 57-year-old Mexican/Puerto Rican was the first minority to be named full-time head coach in Washington history when he was hired in January 2020.
Jason Wright (First Black NFL Team President)
The WFT organization was also the leader in integrating the President position in the NFL with its hire of Wright to oversee the entire operation. He will mastermind business operations for Washington, including finance, sales, and marketing
2020 created unprecedented challenges for the NFL.@WashingtonNFL president @whoisjwright tells Quicktake's @jasonkellynews the league has turned a corner on social justice. Watch their full conversation here 👉https://t.co/oRz5YDRp99 pic.twitter.com/rkWLOZp04Z
— Bloomberg Quicktake (@Quicktake) December 18, 2020
Martin Mayhew (General Manager)
Recently-hired GM Mayhew was a cornerback on Washington’s most recent Super Bowl-winning team (’91 season).
Mayhew joins Washington in a front-office capacity after four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. Prior to that, he spent a year with the New York Giants and was GM of the Detroit Lions for seven-plus seasons.
— WTKR News 3 (@WTKR3) January 22, 2021
Rivera called the 55-year-old ”a man of high character and integrity (who) was part of the rich history and tradition of this great franchise.”
”Martin is a proven general manager who will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the organization,” Rivera said. ”He will be an integral part of running the daily football operations and will allow me the opportunity to focus more on coaching.”
These barrier breakers join Washington’s Senior Vice President of Player Development Doug Williams, the first Black quarterback to win a Super Bowl, as a member of the WFT in 1987.
The Future Is Now In Washington, A Legacy Rebuilt
Synder may have dropped the ball by being stubborn with relinquishing the “Redskins” name, but he certainly hit the trifecta with his executive and leadership hires.
The move is another seismic shift in the hiring philosophies of white-owned sports franchises and corporate conglomerates when it comes to trusting African-Americans with powerful, executive positions.
People who can’t or won’t relate to the plight of people of color in this country often say that they get tired of hearing about the lack of minorities being hired in sports and across the spectrum. Many insist that if “Blacks” were qualified for the positions they would be hired, but we know that is a false narrative.
Opportunity is the key to success. Black people have been shut out of leadership positions in this country at all levels because the ownership is majority white.
So while Black people have made tremendous gains in this country and the beauty of America is that rags to riches sagas are not uncommon, systemic racism is still a major roadblock to Black opportunity and success in America.
Some will call this a desperate move by Snyder to repair his image in the aftermath of the name scandal and accusations that his organization was a cesspool of misogyny and racial and gender injustice. Or we can just take it as it comes and hope that Washington’s progressive business model is duplicated by other franchises across the league.