The Rooney Rule

From the Sidelines

In 2003, the National Football league instituted, I believe with good intentions, the Rooney Rule, named after Dan Rooney the former owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and chairman of the diversity committee. 

The rule was put in place to force owners to interview minorities for leadership positions in their organizations, especially head coaches.  In the 18 years since its inception, it seems that the rule has not done what was intended.  The question is why?

I am writing this as my own personal opinions.  I want people to think about the rule and its failures and sometimes you have to ask uncomfortable questions. So here goes:  I think the reason the Rooney rule is not working as intended is three-fold; one, the owners do not like to be told what to do, two, nobody really knows what goes on in the hiring meetings, and three,  I think the rule itself is insulting! 

Let’s be honest, most of the owners in the NFL are egomaniacs, they love to let people know they are in charge, and they know how to manage the business that made them successful. That does not mean they know how to run a football team. 

Owners are used to telling people what to do, and then expecting them to do it!  Now, not for one minute do I think the majority of owners are racist, or prejudiced people.  I am sure they have minorities working in positions of authority in their other businesses because they could help them become successful. 

So, why do they not hire primarily black coaches, even though they all approve of the Rooney Rule? 

One reason is because they have already become enamored with one person, they love this new guy that is going to take them to the promised-land and usually it is a big name who has done it before, or a young up-and-comer who is getting a lot of media attention. 

Owners love the media attention!  Owners love standing at a podium, smiling and telling the world about how THEY picked this guy to lead them to the Super Bowl.  

They may interview a dozen people, but when they get their heart set on one person, all the others are just window dressing, white, black or whatever, and they are not going to be told who to hire!

Now there are actually 2 minority owners in the NFL, Shahid Kahn, a Pakistani who owns the Jacksonville Jaguars, and hired Doug Pederson, a white coach who has won a Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Kim Pagula, a very successful South Korean who owns the Buffalo Bills and other sports teams, has a white coach, Sean McDermott, who has taken them to the playoffs the last 2 years. 

There is a black ownership group who is trying to buy the Denver Broncos at this point, but nothing yet on the sale. 

The second reason I believe is unless we are there, we have NO IDEA how the person did in the interview.  There is always speculation, but unless the media person was THERE, it is just the individual’s speculation on how it went.  

A recent case in point is Brian Flores, former coach of the Miami Dolphins.  I myself thought Brian did a good job in Miami and deserved to be re-hired.  I was surprised when he was fired.  Now, he has a lawsuit filed because he thought he was going to be re-hired, and then he thought he was going to be hired by the New York Giants. 

Since neither happened, he is suing because he is black and is sure that is why he was not hired.   However, we hear out of Miami that Brian was “difficult to work with”. 

Is that true?  Who knows, but there are always 2 sides to the story. 

Another example is what happened in Minnesota.  Rick Spielman was the G.M. there for 17 years, and Mike Zimmer was the coach for 7 years, both are white.  Both were fired this year, and the news coming out of Minnesota now is that the relationship between the two had become toxic. 

They hadn’t spoken to each other in months!  Nobody knew that until the end of the year.  There had been rumors that Zimmer was to be fired, but that was because of a lack of success, it had nothing to do with his relationship with the G.M.  No wonder they were fired!

There is one thing that bothers me about the Rooney Rule that is usually unspoken.  I am not black, have never been discriminated against that I know of, so this may rub some wrong. Sorry, but it is a legitimate concern. 

If I were black and knew that I HAD TO BE INTERVIEWED FOR A JOB, not because I am qualified, but just because of my color, I think I would be mad! 

Put yourself in this scenario:  I am a WHITE male or female, qualified to do a job I am interviewing for.  I am being interviewed along with 8 other candidates who are all black.  Now there is a rule that says this company, or group, HAS TO INTERVIEW A WHITE PERSON, regardless, or they could be fined or whatever.  How would you feel? 

I can imagine how black coach candidates feel. There are some really good black coaches out there who deserve to have their shot.  Eric Bieniemy, Byron Leftwich, and Raheem Morris come to mind.  They deserve to be hired on merit, not the color of their skin, nor do they need to be humiliated by knowing they HAVE to be interviewed for a job?  This is just not right!

Racism, bigotry, and hatred are never going away.  People will hate others for whatever reason.  Yes, it is stupid, and yes we all need to fight against it.  I don’t think making rules that forces people to work together is the answer. 

My answer?  Let’s quit calling each other a Black American, Asian American, Jewish American, or a White American or whatever. Let’s just call each other Americans.  I bet that would be a great start!  That’s the way I see it, from the sidelines.

Commissioner Mike Stegall

Mike Stegall / Correspondent

Mike Stegall is a GHS alum and played on the Green Wave's only undefeated football team. Served 27 years as an OHSAA football official and currently serves as a Darke County Commissioner

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