NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to all 32 clubs on Saturday saying results of efforts to promote diversity in the hiring of head coaches “have been unacceptable.” The letter comes four days after a lawsuit was filed by former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores accusing the NFL and three of its clubs of racist hiring practices and racial discrimination. While the league called Flores’s lawsuit “without merit,” Goodell said the league will re-evaluate diversity measures and guidelines and retain “outside experts to assist in this review.”
“Racism and any form of discrimination is contrary to the NFL’s values,” Goodell wrote. “We have made significant efforts to promote diversity and adopted numerous policies and programs which have produced positive change in many areas.
“However we must acknowledge that particularly with respect to head coaches the results have been unacceptable.”
There is only one Black head coach in the NFL, Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers, while 70% of the league’s players are Black.
Flores filed a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court against the NFL, the Dolphins, Denver Broncos and New York Jets.
He also accused Dolphins owner Stephen Ross of offering to pay him $100,000 bonuses per contest to lose games so the club could have a higher pick in the NFL Draft.
Ross denied the accusations, saying he takes “great personal exception to these malicious attacks.”
Former Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson told CNN and ESPN the team had a plan that called for incentives for losses in 2016 and 2017, when the club went a combined 1-31 under Jackson.
Goodell said in Saturday’s memo that the NFL takes “seriously any issue relating to the integrity of NFL games. These matters will be reviewed thoroughly and independently.
“We expect that these independent experts will receive full cooperation from everyone associated with the league or any member club as this work proceeds.”
Goodell said the NFL will seek input from current and former players and coaches regarding diversity initiatives.
Flores said that he went on “sham” interviews for NFL head coaching jobs that were granted only so teams could say they followed the league’s “Rooney Rule” requiring interviews of minority candidates from outside the organization for head coaching vacancies.
“We understand the concerns expressed by Coach Flores and others this week,” Goodell said. “While the legal process moves forward, we will not wait to reassess and modify our strategies to ensure that they are consistent with our values and longstanding commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”
‘SYSTEMIC RACIAL BIAS’
A statement Saturday in response to Goodell’s memo by Doug Wigdor and John Elefterakis, attorneys for Flores, said they suspect Goodell’s words were more of a public relations move than a commitment to change.
“For too many years, the NFL has hidden behind the cover of foundations that were supposed to protect the rights of Black players and coaches, all while letting systemic racial bias fester in its front offices,” Wigdor and Elefterakis said.
“The NFL is now rolling out the same playbook yet again and that is precisely why this lawsuit was filed.”
They said no one from the NFL has reached out to Flores or his lawyers.
Six of nine NFL head coaching vacancies for the 2022 hiring cycle have been filled, one expected to become official after next weekend’s Super Bowl, and all the hirings have been white men.
“There is much work to do,” Goodell said.