Advocacy group believes the National Football League must make radical change to be anti-racist 

LONG ISLAND, N.Y. (February 4, 2022) – In response to the recently filed Brian Flores lawsuit against the National Football League (NFL), Advancement of Blacks in Sports announces its full support of the action and calls for increased efforts to hire Black men in front office and head coach positions. According to The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), on average, 18% of the NFL head coaches have been people of color since 2011. This number includes 11 African Americans. Today, the NFL has only one Black head coach, Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers. ABIS president, Gary Charles emphatically states, “This is appalling. What do we have to do to get a fair opportunity? Do the coaches have to go undefeated? Why do we continue to get disrespected by these owners? We, as a people, cannot stand by and watch this happen over and over again and not say something. It is time to let our voices be heard. Just because someone else has the loudest voice in the room, it does not make them correct!” 

The Miami Dolphins hired Flores for the 2019 season. He directed the team to their first back-to-back winning seasons in decades. His 58-page lawsuit, which seeks class-action, alleges that the Dolphins, Denver Broncos, and New York Giants discriminated in his firing and attempts to lead other teams. The Rooney Rule, first implemented in 2003 to address the pattern of systemic exclusion, has yet to make a difference in hiring outcomes for African American men. Hue Jackson and Marvin Williams, former Black NFL coaches, and leading African American ESPN sports journalists such as Mike Wilbon and Stephen A. Smith, have also expressed concern over league activities that block African American men from legitimate opportunities to succeed. Dave Leitao, ABIS vice-president exclaims, “The Brian Flores situation is why we exist. The disproportionate status of Blacks as coaches and senior leaders comes to a head again. The NFL’s response is to tout its philosophy of ‘diversity is at our core.’ One Black head coach doesn’t sound like diversity to me. We might as well go back to leather helmets and the single-wing formation to keep in line with this archaic mentality. It’s the White power structure controlling their product and not wanting it to be run by men of color. I believe there is racist collusion in board rooms for every team.” 

ABIS academics are also passionate in their position to align with Flores: 

Joseph Cooper, PhD, University of Massachusetts (Boston), and member ABIS Research Advisory Group: “Flores’ courage and conviction to draw attention to the injustices in the hiring, firing, and extension processes associated with coaching decisions in the NFL reflects true leadership. The use of legal action enables authorities outside of NFL owners to weigh in on the status quo and changes that 

should occur to improve fairness, diversity, and inclusion across all ranks of management and coaching in the NFL.” 

Richard Lapchick, PhD, University of Central Florida, Director of TIDES, and member ABIS Research Advisory Group: “The court filing by Coach Flores was the smoking gun. It was a graphic representation of gross misuse of the Rooney Rule. I believe the league office has worked hard to change the hiring practices at the team level. This news was not surprising but shows how far we have to go to create real opportunity for leadership positions for people of color. I believe the game changer will be when Black players in all the leagues and colleges demand mandatory diverse hiring pools and open selection process for key positions. Everything else we have tried has not worked long-term. Coach Flores is the coaching equivalent of Colin Kaepernick. The gauntlet has been thrown.” 

Ellen Staurowsky, EdD, Ithaca College, and member ABIS Research Advisory Group: “The substance of the lawsuit filed on the first day of Black History Month by former Miami Dolphins Coach Brian Flores against the National Football League and its 32 franchises alleging race discrimination in its hiring, evaluation, and retention practices is at once disturbing and deeply troubling. The NFL’s recent calls to ‘end racism’ stand in sharp contrast to statements from league officials. Black Head coaches are held to a higher standard and are dismissed even when they win. Research supports those admissions and lends force to Coach Flores’s claims that his treatment is part of a much wider pattern of systemic racism.” 

Deborah Stroman, PhD, University of North Carolina, and chair ABIS Research Advisory Group: “Flores’ action is bold and courageous. He, like Kaepernick, made the conscious decision to sacrifice his NFL career to make a difference for future coaches. I stand beside him in asking the NFL to prove their innocence in this pattern of exclusion, sham-hiring practices, and dupery. Would we all be comfortable supporting a 70% White league of players (and 90% White starters) being coached by 31 Black men for decades? We are at the point whereby corporate statements, speeches, and distributing tee shirts, toys, and backpacks to diverse communities is an inadequate response to this longstanding inequity.” 

Robert Turner, PhD, George Washington University, and member ABIS Research Advisory Group: “The Brian Flores lawsuit is a stark reminder that we still have a long way to go in the fight for equity and justice for all. We can’t be confused. It happens even in the world of sports.”

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