While interviewing for an NFL coaching job this offseason, former offensive lineman and assistant coach Eugene Chung revealed that he was told he was "not the right minority" during his bid to earn the job. Chung, who is of Korean descent, explained his encounter with the interviewer during a webinar hosted by The Boston Globe on Thursday that was designed for Asian Americans to discuss their experiences in the sports world.
"It was said to me, 'Well, you're really not a minority,'" Chung recalled, according to The Globe. "I was like, 'Wait a minute. The last time I checked, when I looked in the mirror and brushed my teeth, I was a minority.'"
When Chung pressed the interviewer to explain further, he says he was told that he was "not the right minority that we're looking for."
"I asked about it, and as soon as the backtracking started, I was like, 'Oh no, no, no, no, no, you said it. Now that it's out there, let's talk about it,'" he continued. "It was absolutely mind-blowing to me that, in 2021, something like that is actually a narrative."
The specific team employing the interviewer who asked this question was not identified by Chung. In the aftermath of his encounter garnering tremendous attention across the league, Chung noted in an interview with ESPN that he is not looking to name that team publically, saying "it'll go with me to the grave."
"I'm not looking to shame anybody, I'm not looking to call anyone out, or name names ... what good comes of that?" Chung said during the interview that aired Tuesday. "I really don't think he was saying it in a discriminatory or malicious way; it was matter-of-fact."
During last week's webinar, Chung also went on to say that this isn't a blanket indictment on the NFL as a whole.
"I'm not sitting here bashing the league at all, because there are great mentors and there are great coaches that embrace the difference," he said. "It's just when the Asians don't fit the narrative, that's where my stomach churns a little bit."
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Following this claim, ESPN reported that the NFL would review the allegations after a call from the Fritz Pollard Alliance. The Fritz Pollard Alliance is an independent group that exists to champion diversity in the NFL, and said in a recent statement that if Chung's claims are true, then it's just more evidence that the NFL's hiring practices are "still riddled" with discrimination.
"That comment is completely inappropriate and contrary to league values and workplace policies," the NFL said in its statement, via ESPN. "The NFL and its clubs are committed to providing equal employment opportunities to all personnel in a manner that is consistent with our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion."
The 51-year-old came into the NFL as a player back in 1992 when he was a first-round draft choice of the New England Patriots. At the time, he was just the third person of Asian descent to ever play professional football. He was also the first Korean American to be drafted in the first round.
A decade after his playing career came to a close in 2000, Chung worked his way into the coaching circuit, getting his first taste of that experience as an assistant offensive line coach with the Philadelphia Eagles. He held that post for three seasons before taking the same role with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013. Chung would later return to Philly and was on staff serving as the assistant offensive line, tight end, and run game coach when the club won Super Bowl LII.