PHOENIX — The NFL took another step at owner meetings to increase diversity across the league while continuing to face criticism and a lawsuit for lack of representation among head coaches.
Every team must now have one person accountable for diversity, equity and inclusion. Currently 15 clubs have a DEI leader and two others have someone to lead that department and another.
“They actually have to have specific roles and accomplishments that are in their job description, so that’s a big deal,” NFL manager Jonathan Beane said in an interview with The Associated Press. “The reason this is so important is we need to have a single point of accountability with clubs where they focus on driving it forward across their organisation, football operations and coaching, business operations and dealing with owners to ensure this is a priority throughout a club’s ecosystem.”
The league has hit milestones in various front office hirings, but critics point to the sidelines, where there are only three black head coaches in a sport that had 56.4% black players in 2022.
The NFL now has seven minority team presidents, including five black and three women, and nine general managers, including eight black men.
But there are a total of six minority head coaches. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers), Todd Bowles (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and DeMeco Ryans (Houston Texans) give the league three black head coaches going into a season for the fifth straight season.
“While increasing diversity in leadership roles could lead to greater diversity on the sidelines, progress on that front has stalled for years,” said Devan Rawlings, author of Revelio Labs’ NFL report. “The NFL has a significant disparity between the diversity of its players and that of its coaching staff – the widest in the men’s major leagues – and that hasn’t changed despite a large pool of diverse former players who could fill the need for coaching talent.”
Brian Flores, the former Miami Dolphins head coach, sued the league and three teams last year, saying the NFL is “pervasive of racism,” particularly when it comes to hiring and promoting black coaches. Flores was an assistant with the Pittsburgh Steelers last season and is the new defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings.
“I will recognize that our representation of diverse head coaches, particularly black head coaches, is certainly below our expectations and is not where anyone wants it or knows it needs to be,” said Beane, senior vice president, chief diversity and Inclusion Officer for the NFL.
“We have far too much talent out there to have the representation among the head coaches that we have. However, I think it’s really, really important to look at other areas that are CEO-type positions that are critical positions for success or failure.”
The number of minority presidents and GMs is the highest in NFL history. The league didn’t even have its first black president until the Washington Commanders hired Jason Wright in August 2020. Kevin Warren (Chicago Bears), Sashi Brown (Baltimore Ravens), Sandra Douglass Morgan (Las Vegas Raiders) and Damani Leech (Denver Broncos). ) have joined in the last two years.
Just four years ago, Miami native Chris Grier was the only black GM in the NFL. Kwesi Adolfo-Mensah (Minnesota Vikings), Ryan Poles (Chicago Bears), Andrew Berry (Cleveland Browns), Martin Mayhew (Washington Commanders), Brad Holmes (Detroit Lions), Terry Fontenot (Atlanta Falcons) and Ran Carthon (Tennessee Titans) have joined him.
“And we know we can do better,” Beane said. “These are roles that are extremely important. There is no role that is less important than the other. Head coach is important, but GM is just as important. President is just as important. They all drive the organization’s success, and you need all three of them to be successful. So when we look at whether we’re making progress, we need to look at all the roles in an organization, especially the leadership roles. So it’s not just head coach. All of these other roles are vital and determine the success and failure of a club.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell agrees there is room for improvement.
“We still feel like there’s better work and more work ahead of us,” Goodell said last month. “There is progress and we are happy about progress, but it is never enough. We’re always trying to say, ‘How can we do better?’”
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