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Opinion | The NFL’s losing record on Black coaches


“Black Coaches within the National Football League: Superior Performance, Inferior Opportunities.” That was the title of a 2002 report by famed attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. and civil rights lawyer Cyrus Mehri detailing how Black coaches averaged more wins than their White counterparts but found it harder to get hired and easier to be fired. Nearly 20 years later, nothing has modified, as a damning Post investigation underscores. The NFL can do more, however it hasn’t.

Compiling and analyzing three a long time of information, a team of Post reporters — including Dave Sheinin, Michael Lee, Emily Giambalvo, Artur Galocha and Clara Ence Morse — revealed the long-standing challenges facing the league’s Black coaches. They’re vastly underrepresented; while nearly 60 percent of NFL players are Black, just 11 percent of full-time head coaches since 1990 have been Black. Once they have been hired, Black coaches have been twice as more likely to get fired after posting a record of .500 or higher than coaches of other races. They’ve needed to spend significantly longer in mid-level assistant jobs before getting head coaching positions. They’ve also often been made head coaches on only an interim basis.

Black Out: The failed NFL diversity ‘rule’ corporate America loves

Much more powerful than the numbers in “Black Out,” a unbroken Post series, are the voices of the Black coaches who saw their exertions unrewarded. Maurice Carthon, who coached for 19 seasons after winning two Super Bowl rings as a running back for the Recent York Giants, interviewed unsuccessfully for five head coaching jobs before retiring. He spoke of 1 interview through which a team executive told him, “You understand, you’re not going to get this job,” right as he stepped off the plane. In one other, he said a team owner told him, “You understand, in our organization here, we let the boys wash the cars.”

The NFL has openly acknowledged there are usually not enough Black coaches and team executives; “unacceptable” is how NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell described the situation to the league’s 32 teams in February. The league points to efforts it has taken over time geared toward increasing diversity amongst its coaching ranks. It created networking seminars for minority coaches and front-office executives. It encouraged teams to foster diverse talent pipelines, for instance by giving draft selections to groups that develop a coach of color who becomes a head coach. However the league says it ultimately can’t control what the owners do, and that the predominantly White male group, as The Post’s reporters have made painfully clear, is more comfortable hiring individuals who appear to be them.

In actual fact, the league shouldn’t be doing all it may well; the most recent installment of “Black Out,” by Gus Garcia-Roberts, detailed the league’s failure to exert pressure on teams. It did not implement the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview ethnic-minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. That interview process — and the way easily it’s gamed — figures prominently within the lawsuit brought by former Miami head coach Brian Flores against the NFL and three teams. Just as the specter of a lawsuit in 2002 forced the NFL to take some motion by creating the Rooney Rule, let’s hope Mr. Flores’s suit and the eye focused on NFL hiring will finally bring change. Or the league could live as much as its words and do the best thing without being forced into it.

The Post’s View | In regards to the Editorial Board

Editorials represent the views of The Washington Post as an establishment, as determined through debate amongst members of the Editorial Board, based within the Opinions section and separate from the newsroom.

Members of the Editorial Board and areas of focus: Deputy Editorial Page Editor Karen Tumulty; Deputy Editorial Page Editor Ruth Marcus; Associate Editorial Page Editor Jo-Ann Armao (education, D.C. affairs); Jonathan Capehart (national politics); Lee Hockstader (immigration; issues affecting Virginia and Maryland); David E. Hoffman (global public health); Charles Lane (foreign affairs, national security, international economics); Heather Long (economics); Molly Roberts (technology and society); and Stephen Stromberg (elections, the White House, Congress, legal affairs, energy, the environment, health care).

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