Black NFL coaches and white coaches win, but face more barriers to getting and keeping the job, the Washington Post found.


Entitled “How the NFL Locks Out Black Coaches,” the in-depth story examines the brief history of Black NFL coaches, dating back to when Art Shell was hired by the Los Angeles Raiders in 1989 as the first black head coach in modern history. Since then, 191 people have been hired as coaches, but only 24 are black — a “significant omission” for a league where the majority of players are black, the Post noted.

This season, there are three black coaches: Todd Bowles of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Lovie Smith of the Houston Texans and Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers. That’s the same number of black coaches as in 2003, when the NFL — facing pressure for lack of representation — introduced a new policy known as the “Rooney Rule,” requiring teams to interview at least one candidate of color to become head coach. coaching and front office jobs.

The Post interviewed 16 of the 24 black coaches and provides three decades of data analysis, charts, videos and more explaining the obstacles black coaches face.

“The criteria seems to be moving,” former Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier — who was fired a year after leading the team to the playoffs — and now the Buffalo Bills’ defensive coordinator, told the Post. “One week, or one year, it’s ‘We want a guy who’s offensive.’ Another year, ‘We want a guy with a Super Bowl-winning background.’ What’s the criteria? Sometimes it’s because he’s a ‘great leader.’ It’s often ‘because he was born as I was born.”But the usual theme is… [an owner is going] hiring someone who looks like that owner.’

The issue came to the fore in February when Brian Flores, the former coach of the Miami Dolphins, filed a lawsuit against the NFL and three teams, alleging racial discrimination. Flores, who is black, said in his lawsuit that he was interviewed by the New York Giants and Denver Broncos because of their coaching job under improper conditions to comply with the Rooney Rule.
Former Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks and former NFL assistant Ray Horton joined Flores’ lawsuit in April, alleging discriminatory conduct.

The NFL found the allegations in the lawsuit to be without merit. “The NFL and our clubs are deeply committed to ensuring fair employment practices and continue to make progress in providing fair opportunities throughout our organizations,” the league said in a statement. “Diversity is at the heart of everything we do, and there are few issues that our clubs and our internal management team spend more time on.”

The Dolphins, Broncos and Giants have also denied wrongdoing.

In response to the lawsuit, the NFL and the teams have filed a motion to take the case to arbitration and stay court proceedings, according to court documents.

What keeps Black coaches going?

An "End Racism"  The symbol is displayed on a goalie during an NFL game on September 11, 2022.

In response to the Post’s findings, Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, told the Post, “At the end of the day, we don’t do recruiting.”

“With programs, initiatives, we have exhausted ourselves ensuring that [owners] they are aware of who is out there [as candidates]. But we don’t rent. And so it has been a difficult challenge for us, but we have to keep pushing. And we think what we’re doing is the right thing until they change their hearts,” he said.

The Post story identified several key issues facing Black coaches. He focuses on the shortcomings of the Rooney Rule and highlights comments from coaches of Black teams who claim that fake interviews were conducted to get the teams to comply with the rule.

Two coaches have joined Brian Flores' racial discrimination lawsuit against the NFL

In addition, teams have increasingly hired coaches who previously served as offensive coordinators or quarterbacks coaches, but from 1999-2021, 86 percent of offensive quarterback jobs were filled by white coaches, the Post wrote.

Black coaches also do “the language” as assistants and coaches before becoming coaches. “Blacks who became NFL coaches in the past decade spent, on average, nine more years than whites in middle-level assistant jobs and three fewer years as coordinators,” the paper says.

Finally, even when they are hired, they are held to a higher standard and winning does not necessarily save them, the Post wrote.

“Since 1990, a black coach who wins at least nine games and a white coach who wins at least six have roughly the same odds of being fired,” the analysis found.

CNN has reached out to the NFL for comment.