Blog Entry

The Rooney Rule: Bad For All Sides

Posted on: January 13, 2010 3:36 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2010 3:39 pm
There once was a time when racism and bigotry was as prominent as ever in the United States.  Perfectly qualified African American coaches were being overlooked as a result of the collective "good ol' boy" practices of the owners in the National Football League.  When you have a problem so sensitive and so obvious in sports, it's important that everyone involved take the necessary steps to revitalizing the legitimacy and character of the league.  The Rooney Rule was put into place in 2003 and it required every franchise in the NFL to interview at least one person of a minority descent when it was searching for new executive positions within the organization (such as head coach, team president, etc.).  It started off with great intentions, but as of late the rule has come under serious scrutiny.  It's gotten to a point where I want to ask, is it necessary anymore?  When people like Leslie Frazier and Jerry Gray are used as tokens and basically humilated because a franchise has no intention of hiring them, doesn't the rule lose a lot of steam? 

It's no longer become a rule that's beneficial in the new finding of qualified, hidden candidates who would never before have gotten an opportunity to succeed .  It's not a joke.  A quick hiccup in the process of a team finding exactly who it wants to appoint and bending all rules in order to do so.  Mike Shanahan is a fine coach who won two Super Bowls in Denver with the Broncos.  He's an arguable hall of fame candidate, and his candidacy will only heighten if he's able to revitalize and rebuild a horrible Washington Redskins franchise.  It's safe to say, as good of a coach as Jerry Gray may be, that Shanahan has the better resume and was Redskins owner Daniel Snyder's choice all along.  The Seahawks have seemingly ignored this rule during both of their head coaching hires, when they named Jim Mora the head coach in waiting after Mike Holmgren and now with the choice of hiring Pete Carroll without interviewing a minority candidate.  When it came time to go ahead and just impress the Rooney Rule enforcers, the Seahawks contacted Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.  When Frazier balked at the idea of interviewing for a position that was already determined (and rightfully so), he forced the Seahawks hand in stripping the "team president" title from Pete Carroll and having to give it to somebody else.

This rule has fantastic intention.  I am in no way condoning outlawing a person by basis of color, and NFL teams should never discriminate a good candidate.  But is the rule needed anymore?  Aren't most teams intent on hiring the best candidate to fill their position and make the team successful?  Entering race into the equation is complicating the process of having an NFL team hire the candidate that they want to.  If an NFL owner wants to hire a less qualified white man to run his franchise, isn't the ensuing defeats going to be a problem for that particular owner?  The rule has done great things.  Tony Dungy has stated that all signs pointed to Steve Spurrier taking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job before they interviewed Dungy.  It's opened a lot of doors for coaches who previously wouldn't have gotten that same opportunity.  But there are just as many black coaches failing as there are white coaches.  Mike Tomlin won a Super Bowl taking over Bill Cowher's Steelers team, but when it came time to overcome injuries and when it comes to motivating his team he seems to lack in that regard.  His "we will unleash hell" statement was praised and loved and repeated by all members of the media, but it didn't resonate with his team, who promptly lost to the Raiders and Browns.  Lovie Smith is a great man.  A good coach with a strong Christian approach, who has really driven the Bears into the ground as of late. 

I'm not saying all black coaches fail.  But for every unqualified white coach who is routinely blasted by the media (Lane Kiffin), there is an unqualified black coach who gets a pass because if he were to be criticized it would be considered racist (Raheem Morris).  When it comes down to it, using another sport as an example, when you're arguing who would be the greatest player in NBA history, you think of Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, etc.  Larry Bird was a fantastic player and is every bit as qualified as the previous players.  But he's not held in that same regard.  Should we put him up on the list because people of his color are lacking in that area?  No.  We wouldn't.  We would always say that the best player was the best player.  Race is simply a formality.

So when it comes down to it, the owners are going to hire who they want.  This is doing nothing but making a mockery of the rule's intentions and there's no constitutional way to enforce that teams legitimately interview and toy with someone who have they have NO INTENTION of hiring.  It's a waste of time.  So please, NFL, stop with the charades.  It's time to get rid of the Rooney Rule.
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