Rooney Rule needs to change

Justin Schaumberger, Sports Co-Editor

With the Super Bowl just two weeks away, one would expect the NFL world to be solely focused on the big game that decides the League champion. Instead, former Dolphins coach Brian Flores is in the spotlight, filing a class action lawsuit against the NFL on Feb. 1 alleging racial discrimination. In the lawsuit, Flores notes that “[i]n certain critical ways the NFL is racially segregated and is managed much like a plantation. Its 32 owners — none of whom are Black — profit substantially from the labor of NFL players, 70 percent of whom are Black.”

Flores, a four-time Super Bowl Champion, has worked in various NFL positions since 2004, first in the front office and coaching staff, but ultimately culminating in a stint as head coach for the Miami Dolphins from 2019 to 2021. Despite being fired at the end of the past season, Flores was seemingly a popular candidate for several head coaching positions including the Broncos and Giants, but emerged from the interviews with no offers. Flores claims that he was never an actual candidate for the jobs and was only interviewed to meet the requirements of the controversial “Rooney Rule.” The Rooney Rule states that NFL teams must interview at least one minority candidate for a head coaching or football operations opportunities in senior manager positions. 

Flores backed up this statement with several private text messages exchanged between himself and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. In the text messages, Belichick congratulated Flores on a great interview and tells him, regarding a head coaching position for the Giants, that it “Sounds like you have landed — congrats!!” However, these texts were exchanged days before Flores even interviewed for the position. It was later revealed that Belichick believed at the time that he was texting Brian Daboll, recently named the head coach for the Giants. This would have rendered Flores’ interview absolutely irrelevant, only nominally satisfying the Rooney Rule. 

When taking into account the accusations posed by Flores, and looking at the demographics of the NFL, a striking pattern is revealed. According to the lawsuit, only one NFL team employs a Black head coach; only 15 out of the 64 offensive and defensive coordinates (23 percent) are Black; only six of the 32 NFL general managers (19 percent) are Black; and, despite 70 percent of NFL players being Black, not one owner is. Time and time again, minority head-coaching candidates are passed up for white candidates, despite the presence of exceptionally qualified Black and minority candidates. Eric Bieniemy, offensive coordinator for the Chiefs since 2018 and hailed as a brilliant coach and one of the smartest NFL offensive minds, has still not gotten a head coaching opportunity. Byron Leftwich finally may get a coaching job with the Jaguars, a rare appreciation for his unparalleled talent in previous seasons.

Minority coaches are also being fired even despite stellar performances for their teams. Flores had a winning record in the past two seasons and barely missed the playoffs in each of them before being sacked. David Culley was fired this offseason by the Texans, despite having a better season than many expected with the team’s subpar roster. 

All of these issues seemingly circle back to the Rooney Rule. Despite being put into place in 2003, there has been no substantial change in the number of minority coaches or executives in the NFL. In Flores’ mind, the NFL needs to make significant improvements to its hiring practices or things will never get better. “I may be risking coaching the game that I love and that has done so much for my family and me,” Flores said regarding the lawsuit. “My sincere hope is that by standing up against systemic racism in the NFL, others will join me to ensure that positive change is made for generations to come.”

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