Natonal Football League chief Roger Goodell said Thursday more needs to be done to promote minority coaches after another hiring cycle that saw black candidates largely snubbed for head coaching roles.
The NFL has faced accusations of institutional racism in recent seasons over the league's tendency to favor white candidates for head coaching jobs despite a player base that is roughly 70% black.
Of seven head coaching jobs that fell open following the regular season, only two of those positions went to minority candidates, with David Culley joining the Houston Texans and Arab-American Robert Saleh hired by the New York Jets.
The recent appointments take the number of minority head coaches in the 32-team NFL to five, with only three of those jobs occupied by African-American coaches.
Goodell said Thursday the issue had dominated discussions between league officials and team owners over the past year.
"We had two minority coaches hired this year but it wasn't what we expected, and it's not what we expect going forward," Goodell said in his annual pre-Super Bowl news conference.
Although the NFL introduced its groundbreaking "Rooney Rule" in 2003 -- which requires teams to interview ethnic-minority candidates every time a head coaching job comes vacant -- the policy has barely moved the needle.
With three black head coaches in today's NFL, the number is the same as it was when the rule was introduced 18 years ago.
Goodell said the league planned to hold wide-ranging discussions with teams and candidates to determine how best to remedy the issue.
"We want to continue to look and see what went right, and what went wrong," Goodell said.
"There have to be individual discussions, with candidates, both those that were successful and unsuccessful, and the clubs. These are not the outcomes we wanted. But we want it to be a natural process, and we want it to be a process that makes us more diverse more ultimately."
Goodell said the appointment of three African-American general managers was a cause for optimism.
"But we feel we can do better and we're going to," he said.
Goodell said the league would continue to look at the question of implementing a hiring freeze until after the completion of the Super Bowl.
With hiring swinging into action as soon as the regular season is complete, some believe the current rules penalize coaches who are already employed by teams involved in the playoffs.
"This is an issue we had a lot of discussion about," Goodell said. "It's something that I'm sure will be brought back up again."
Goodell, meanwhile, reiterated that the NFL now regretted not listening earlier to grievances of black players who had been involved in protests against racial injustice, most notably former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
"I said very clearly back in June that we wish we had listened to our players earlier, and we had a lot of players that were coming and bringing these issues to us," Goodell said.
"Colin was one of the individuals who obviously brought a great deal of attention to this, and for that he deserves our recognition and appreciation."
© 2021 AFP