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ATLANTA — Minority coaches and front-office executives from NFL teams participated in seminars, workshops and networking opportunities here Monday because the league made its latest attempt to deal with its diversity issues.
The event, which the league called its first Coach and Front Office Accelerator, included about 60 head coaching and general manager candidates from the 32 teams and got here a day ahead of Tuesday’s often scheduled owners’ meeting.
“I don’t have all of the answers,” Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Marcus Brady said. “I feel this can be a step in the proper direction, this chance. We’ll see how we construct from here and go from here. But I do think this event is an amazing step within the direction to have the ability to construct relationships throughout the NFL circle.”
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The seminar took place because the NFL continues to grapple with its diversity practices within the aftermath of a disappointing hiring cycle. The league and teams are facing a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores.
“This [issue] has been on the docket,” said Jonathan Beane, the NFL’s chief diversity and inclusion officer. “We’ve been specializing in this for quite some time. … I’d say anything that goes on, whether it’s a hiring cycle that doesn’t go great, any type of other situations that go on throughout the game because it pertains to clubs or because it pertains to the Flores situation or the rest, only for us, let’s just know that we now have to dig deeper and we now have to have that level of urgency around getting this right.”
Two of the NFL’s 10 head coaching vacancies this offseason were filled by Black coaches. The Houston Texans hired Lovie Smith, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers promoted Todd Bowles from defensive coordinator to go coach when Bruce Arians stepped aside. Smith and Bowles joined the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin because the league’s only Black head coaches. The Dolphins hired Mike McDaniel, who’s multiracial, to interchange the fired Flores as their coach.
Two other Black coaches, Steve Wilks and Ray Horton, later joined Flores’s lawsuit, which accuses the league and teams of discrimination within the hiring and retention of minority coaches. The league and people teams cited within the lawsuit have denied the particular allegations, but Commissioner Roger Goodell and other league leaders have said the NFL must do all that it might to deal with its minority hiring issues.
“Here we’re being very intentional in specializing in head coach and GM because we all know that’s an area of focus we now have to be higher,” Beane said. “We have now the talent already that’s within the league, however it needs the exposure. The connections should be built. So then as we go into the hiring cycle, you’re thinking that of the nice those that you only met because it pertains to who may very well be your next GM or head coach.”
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The league and owners enacted a measure in March that requires each team to have a minority assistant coach in a big role on its offensive staff. The NFL also appointed a committee of out of doors advisers and approved a resolution endorsing diversity in franchise ownership.
“I’m an optimistic person,” Brady said. “So a part of it’s just who I’m, my makeup of who I’m. I’m all the time striving for greatness. I’m all the time having that positive outlook that things will change. There’s numerous good people within the NFL in higher positions. Although things should not looking up without delay, like this event that’s occurring without delay, there are people in place which are working toward that progress. I’m just hoping that eventually it’ll break barriers, and it’ll begin to vary.”
Offensive coordinators Eric Bieniemy of the Kansas City Chiefs and Byron Leftwich of the Buccaneers, two of the more distinguished Black assistant coaches to have been omitted for head coaching opportunities in recent hiring cycles, were among the many participants.
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank addressed the group Monday morning. Later within the day, owners Art Rooney of the Steelers, Clark Hunt of the Chiefs and Robert Kraft of the Latest England Patriots participated in a question-and-answer session with the minority coaches and executives. Goodell also addressed the attendees during that session. The proceedings were to incorporate a reception Monday evening through which the minority coaches and executives would have the ability to interact with team owners.
“We’re hoping that connections are developed between these great leaders that we’ve brought here on the coaching and front-office side with club owners and club decision-makers, that relationships are built, that the nice talent that’s in front of them is recognized, which then leads to very large opportunity,” Beane said.