ADVANCEMENT OF BLACKS IN SPORTS SUPPORTS BRIAN FLORES

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.”

ABIS Calls on the NCAA to End Mistreatment of Black Head Coaches After Decision to Ban Oklahoma State University Men’s Basketball Team from 2022 Postseason

It is no secret that the NCAA plays by its own rules. It doles out punishments in ways that do not make sense to many who follow college sports. It often acts in ways that are hypocritical and contradictory to maintain a host of myths, including the idea that elite athletes who generate billions of dollars as part of the college sport industrial complex are amateurs. They use the term students to refer to athletes in their member institutions to further mask their status as employees to avoid giving them their fair share of the wealth generated by their labor, names, images, and likenesses. Like many organizations and institutions after the killing of George Floyd, the NCAA engaged in a series of actions aimed at addressing racial inequities in college sports. However, their recent decision regarding the men’s basketball team at Oklahoma State University (OSU) demonstrates that they were not acting in good faith and were instead engaged in a series of performative and symbolic acts.

The treatment of OSU’s men’s basketball, which is led by African American Head Coach Mike Boynton, is unprecedented for Division I basketball and flies in the face of fairness. According to Kevin Sweeny’s November 3, 2021 article in SI.com, OSU was implicated in a 2017 FBI investigation that revealed evidence of illegal actions in recruiting, which involved both fraud and bribery. The NCAA did not approve OSU’s appeal of its decision, reported Sweeny.

Sweeny wrote that African American former assistant coach Lamont Evans, was found to have accepted bribes to influence athletes during the 2016–17 season. Sweeny added that “Evans spent three months in prison in 2019 and received a lengthy 10-year show cause penalty by the NCAA. Evans worked under White former OSU head coach Brad Underwood during the 2016–17 season and was dismissed after the investigation broke in September 2017, before current head coach Mike Boynton ever coached a game for the Cowboys.”

Many people throughout the college sports world decry the NCAA’s decision “because of its perceived unfairness relative to other programs implicated in the bribery scandal. South Carolina, where Evans worked as an assistant coach prior to his time at OSU, received two years of probation and minor recruiting penalties,” added Sweeny.

We believe the punishment does not fit because there’s no evidence of academic fraud, no ineligible players competed, there was no lack of institutional control, no failure to monitor, no recruiting violations and no head coach involvement and/or knowledge.

As a result, the preseason Top 25 team that Coach Boynton assembled must face a 2022 playoff season ban for infractions that happened more than five years ago. The ban may be one of the only in the entire history of the NCAA where a member institution has received such a harsh punishment without being cited for one of the five most egregious violations. These violations are academic dishonesty, an absence of institution control, irresponsibility on the part of a head coach, recruitment violations, and institutional failure to monitor.

It is documented that the NCAA does not have a history of advocating for the recruitment and retention of Black coaches at its member institutions. Their most recent decision involving OSU is further evidence that Black coaches’ lives and the lives of their predominately Black men players do not matter. As is the case in the broader society, not surprisingly Black men receive unequal and inequitable treatment relative to other racial groups in member institutions or by the entire Association. The list of institutions with proven and suspected infractions contains the names of many White assistant and head coaches who either escape punishment altogether or are treated less harshly than Black assistant and head coaches and shown far more leniency.

“We cannot afford to look the other way when there is clear and convincing evidence that individuals and organizations are treating Black coaches in ways they would never think to treat White coaches for offenses they did commit… let alone for offenses that happened years before they ever took the helm of an elite program,” commented Gary Charles, president and founder of ABIS, Inc., a nonprofit organization aimed at addressing racial inequities in sports.

“Coach Boynton showed what Black coaches can accomplish when simply given the opportunity to do so. He should not pay for the sins of a White coach who essentially received a slap on the wrist. The potential damage to Coach Boynton’s career and overall well-being is incalculable. The timing of the decision also means that Boynton’s players cannot exercise their right to enter the transfer portal, a right enjoyed by other college athletes,” noted Charles.

“The NCAA must be called out for their continued mistreatment of Black coaches and Black athletes. The unequal treatment experienced by Black coaches and Black players must end. The NCAA can do better, and we must hold them accountable,” said Charles.

Source: https://www.si.com/college/2021/11/03/ncaa-rejects-oklahoma-state-appeal-postseason-ban Kevin Sweeny, Febuary 9, 2022

 

ABIS Responds to Anthem Antics: You Cannot Control Consciousness

The killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, led to a racial reckoning of sorts in America and at the same time exposed one of its worst-kept secrets: American remains deeply divided by race. This division is true throughout all of American society, including in the world of sports.

Over the years and even today many Black athletes use their platforms to draw attention to the material and non-material consequences of being Black in America. These consequences and mistreatment includes threats to mental and physical health, barriers to asset ownership and wealth, employment discrimination, and, yes, death. Many athletes, including Black college athletes, have chosen to exercise their constitutional rights during the customary playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Black college athletes today, like many before them, kneel, pray silently, or raise fists in the air to create what legendary civil rights icon, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, called a crisis.  In his famous, “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” he wrote about the purpose of such actions.  “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”  The exploitation and harm to Black college athletes and other Black people can no longer be ignored.

 

Reactions to Black college athletes protesting during the national anthem have ranged from boos in mostly empty stadiums and arenas, due in large part to COVID-19, to hate-filled emails and social media posts, to the introduction of legislation prohibiting anyone from protesting during the playing of the national anthem, such as in the case of the State of Tennessee.

Our focus must remain on the reason Black college players and their supporters protest and voice concerns. It is well-documented and clear that many Americans are frustrated, disappointed, and tired of the ongoing racial inequities in this country that are rooted in long-held antiblack sentiments.  ABIS is proud of the bravery that Black college athletes have shown during one of the most tumultuous times in American history.  Likewise, ABIS honors the non-Black people who have supported Black college athletes in their quest to create a more equitable and just society for Black people and for all of humanity. Furthermore, ABIS condemns efforts on the part of those individuals, organizations, and corporations who attempt to silence current supporters and discourage others from joining in the fight for justice and the right to speak.  To be clear, these acts of marginalization, oppression, and silence are not new tactics.  We have seen this page of the racial playbook before.

The case of Coach Jason Shay, formerly the Head Coach of Men’s Basketball at East Tennessee State University is one of the latest examples.  Coach Shay recently resigned from his coaching duties, according to an article published by ESPN.com on April 2, 2021.  The players contend the coach was forced out of his job for joining his players in protesting racial inequities during the playing of the national anthem, according to the author of the article, Michael Fletcher.  In addition, Coach Shay had a vehicle that was loaned to him by Johnson City Honda reclaimed, based upon reports from a local news station.

It was not just “his support for the players,” as some in the media have framed it, that resulted in the loss of his job and vehicle. We join others in believing that the optics of a White man joining with young Black men and protesters to declare the humanity of all Black people and to draw attention to the unequal treatment that Black people face was too uncomfortable for those in power.

The State of Tennessee has the absolute right to introduce legislation. The car company can reclaim a vehicle at will.  Similarly, people and organizations committed to addressing racial justice issues also have the right and responsibility to vote for representatives who share their values.  They also have the right not to patronize businesses that punish people for doing the right thing.

We believe that we all have a shared responsibility of patriotism to point out the gaps between our stated American principles and how they are actually realized on a daily basis for each and every citizen.  America is now on the precipice of an important moment in its history.  The nation is awaiting the conclusion of the Dereck Chauvin trial, in which this police officer is charged with three counts related to the death of Floyd. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a case that may allow college athletes, including Black college athletes in high-revenue generating sports, to receive education benefits that some deem to deprive them of the ability to be rewarded for their athletic talents and hard work. This case is directly related to 30+ state proposed  (or soon to be enacted) legislation that offers athletes some form of control of their name, image, and likeness.  Unfortunately, far too many people in and around college sports want to also control the consciousness of Black college athletes and others committed to transformative change.

ABIS stands firm on our mission. We cannot let that happen and remain silent.