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NFL institutes Rooney Rule to diversify league staff

By Dhruv Anish and Raymond Dai Feb. 3, 2021

Jessica Lin Art

The lack of diversity among coaching staff in the National Football League (NFL) has long been criticized, with only seven minority personnel being hired to fill 31 available NFL staff positions during the 2020 offseason. In hopes of combatting this issue, the NFL has since expanded the Rooney Rule—a regulation first introduced in 2003 that requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate while filling head coach vacancies. Due to recent changes to the Rooney Rule, NFL teams are now obligated to consider at least two minority candidates for the positions of general manager, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and other front office positions. Additionally, teams that trade away a minority coach or coordinator receive additional picks in each of the following two drafts.

“In a perfect world, a candidate’s skin color would not even need to be taken into consideration, but due to the lack of minority coaches, I can see why it is appropriate. I wish that there was no need for the Rooney Rule, but undoubtedly, diversity in the NFL should be addressed,” Junior Aidan Cain said.

The Rooney Rule has recently gained increased attention as former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was hired as the NFL’s first Muslim head coach, taking the position with the New York Jets. With an extensive resume serving as a defensive assistant for the Houston Texans, winning a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks in 2013 and coaching linebackers for the Jacksonville Jaguars before becoming the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator, Saleh has been a standout throughout his coaching career, but especially with the 49ers. Prior to Saleh’s arrival, the 49ers ranked dead last in total defensive rankings across the NFL according to Pro Football Reference. By carefully working with head coach Kyle Shannahan, Saleh was able to improve the team’s defense to eighth in 2019, culminating in a Super Bowl appearance. His success led to several organizations seeking him out for head coaching jobs. Ultimately, Saleh decided to sign with the Jets in hopes of leading them towards a winning record. As an incentive to continue hiring minority staff, the Rule granted the 49ers third round picks in the following two drafts due to losing Saleh to an opposing team.

“Saleh showed that the new generation of NFL coaches, no matter their ethnic background, can find success as long as they are given a chance. The Rooney Rule is a great way to provide them with these opportunities,” Junior Jad Khayata said

However, the NFL has had problems ensuring the effectiveness of the Rooney Rule. Just because teams are required to consider at least two minority candidates for coaching positions does not mean the rule forces them to consider all applicants fairly. FiveThirtyEight reports that only one out of five hired head coaches in 2019 was nonwhite and had replaced a white coach, leading to minimal increase in minority representation. Following these reports, many in the sports community have criticized the NFL for not guaranteeing that every applicant will have an equitable chance at securing a position. To fix this, some have proposed that the NFL monitor interviews to ensure that each candidate receives the same treatment. Additionally, they suggest that the NFL could establish a quota for the allotted time a team is allowed to spend pursuing each candidate to ensure that everyone has an equal chance. With minority representation in professional sports coming under more scrutiny, other leagues have implemented regulations similar to the Rooney Rule. Major League Baseball has introduced the “Selig Rule,” requiring teams to interview at least one minority candidate for every managerial or front office opening. While these rules have not yet been adopted in all professional leagues, they have the potential to encourage diversity in sports management. By granting teams with minority coaches incentives, the NFL and its organizations can open the doors for more minority coaches to be hired in the future.


About the Contributors

Dhruv Anish

Staff Writer

Dhruv Anish is a junior at Leland High School who is a staff writer for the newspaper. He likes to watch movies and listen to music in his spare time. His favorite actor is Robert Deniro and his favorite movie is The Godfather: Part 2.

Raymond Dai

Staff Writer

Raymond Dai is a sophomore at Leland High School and a Staff Writer for the Charger Account. He likes to play video games, play badminton and go out biking in his free time.

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