What Is The Shadow League Rooney Rule Modification? | Only NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Can Truly Guarantee Compliance

The current Brian Flores lawsuit situation with the NFL places the league in a precarious position when it comes to the issue of race. In a memo to teams Saturday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged the league’s diversity programs and policies … “haven’t done enough to ensure equality.”

“We must acknowledge that particularly with respect to head coaches the results have been unacceptable,” Goodell said in the memo.

However, in order for NFL hiring practices to diversify, the commissioner has to be more active in the implementation of policy that is in place to make sure that qualified candidates of all colors can have a real opportunity at leading one of the NFL’s 32 teams.

 In 2003, the league, working with Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, put a provision in place entitled “the Rooney rule,” which provided a guideline for teams to make sure they interviewed a Black candidate before making a final selection.

 20 years later and the NFL has just one Black head coach and owners are circumventing the spirit of the rule at every turn.

 After years of covering these injustices and illuminating the practices that hinder Black advancement at the leadership and executive levels, The Shadow League has come up with some key modifications to the Rooney rule that might lead to more accountability and clarity about the hiring process.

 These additions to the current Rooney Rule also give the commissioner a broader range of influence and a more active role in the process to ensure compliance. 


Shadow League Modification Of Rooney Rule

1. The owners must agree to allow the commissioner to be more active in the head coach selection process.

The commissioner serves at the behest of the owners to run and operate the business of the league. With that said, they should support the practice of him having more involvement in the head coach selection process.  This issue around head coach hiring and its good faith practices is one of the most pressing concerns for the NFL right now. The responsibility for the enforcement of compliance must be his to enforce, right now it is too easy to move blame around to the owners and then continue business as usual.


(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

If the owners can’t answer legitimate questions as to why they chose one candidate over the other, the commissioner should have broader powers to investigate the hiring and even summon the owner and/or hiring GM for a conference to discuss the hiring process with full transparency. Hunches and cultural comfortability aren’t going to cut it anymore.

The NFL is one of the most data-rich sports leagues in the world.  Everything is measured, managed and adjusted.  This current situation with diversity among head coaches and team management should fall under the same purview.

2. All head coach candidates must be registered with the NFL commissioner once they are interviewed.

In order to ensure compliance by NFL owners in regard to respecting the Rooney Rule, an organized system for the commissioner’s office to keep track of all interviews conducted by NFL teams with head coaching vacancies should be implemented. Again, the commissioner is the leader of the league and should have broad powers and influence over the most crucial issues and decisions. Over the past decade, race has been at the forefront, with little change in how the owners are functioning in regard to hiring Black people to leadership position.

3. Before a head coach can be named for any team in the league, the commissioner must confirm compliance to league guidelines (like the Rooney Rule and others to be developed)

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

We propose an amended set of guidelines to ensure compliance with the Rooney Rule. The NFL commissioner must confirm that they were met by the hiring team before a head coach can be officially named.  The commissioner should also create and maintain a compliance committee of owners that support the ongoing development in the mission of the Rooney Rule.

4. Key amendment to the existing Rooney Rule, If a Black head coach is NOT hired, the team must hire either a Black OC or Black DC with the new coach that is hired.

The pipeline to NFL head coach has traditionally run through the coordinator position. In recent years, the offensive coordinator position, which is composed mostly of white coaches, has been the springboard to a head coaching position.

(Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

If quarterbacks coach, offensive coordinator/passing game coordinator are the positions that get first dibs on head coaching positions, then the NFL has to ensure that there’s also a pipeline to cultivate and hire qualified Black offensive coordinators to give Black candidates a better opportunity to be hired. 

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