NFL Expands Controversial ‘Rooney Rule’ To Include Women

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The National Football League (NFL) has decided to expand its controversial “Rooney Rule” affirmative action policy. The Rooney Rule was first instituted in 2003 and requires NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate for coaching vacancies. The new rule requires NFL teams to interview at least one woman, a change from the previous policy. The update also requires teams to hire at least one “diverse person” to work in close proximity to the head coach. A “diverse person” is defined as being either a woman or someone of an ethnic or racial minority.

This new move comes after the NFL was recently embroiled in a controversy regarding former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores. Flores, who is black and Hispanic, alleged racial discrimination while interviewing for the New York Giants head coaching vacancy earlier this year as well as the Denver Broncos vacancy in 2019. Flores currently has a lawsuit filed against the NFL. Flores alleges that he was brought in for “sham” interviews in which decisions to hire a white coach had already been made.

John Mara, the owner of the New York Giants, disputed Flores’ allegation of racial discrimination. “We’re very comfortable with our hiring process. It was a fair process and we ended up making the decision that we made based on a lot of factors, none of which had to do with race” Mara asserted in a statement shortly after the lawsuit was filed.

League officials are expected to push back on Flores’ accusations hard, according to a report in The New York Times. “Several team owners and coaches at the meetings, which host all top league personnel each year, suggested that the league will push back forcefully against Flores’s claims”, reports the Times.

Critics of the Rooney Rule point out the blatant racism of the rule. Using race as a determining factor whether or not someone gets an interview goes against commonly held beliefs regarding fairness, especially in a meritocratic arena like sports. Critics also point out the real-world effects of the Rooney Rule, as it has been alleged that many teams bring in a minority candidate solely to “check the box” in the event that the team has already decided to hire a white coach. A common argument is that it is patronizing and disrespectful to minority coaches to suggest that they are only getting an opportunity because of an affirmative action-based policy.

There has never been a female head coach in the history of the NFL, nor has there been a female NFL player.

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