Goodell, the civil rights group meets on Rooney Rule

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LOS ANGELES – A group of civil rights leaders called for replacing the Rooney rule at a meeting Monday with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

As they sought specific recruitment and hiring procedures for NFL director and coaching positions, they also sought “meaningful consequences for non-compliant teams.”

National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial, founder and president of National Action Networks Rev. Al Sharpton, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation President and CEO Melanie Campbell, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson and National African American Clergy Network co-convene Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner asked for the meeting after former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores accused the NFL and three teams – the Giants, Broncos and Dolphins – of racial discrimination in a proposed class action lawsuit last week.

The Rooney Rule was established in 2003 and requires teams to interview colored candidates for head coach and senior positions in football operations.

“As well-meaning as it is, the effect of the Rooney rule has been that team decision-makers view interviews with colored candidates as an irrelevant step, rather than an integral part of the hiring process,” Morial said. “The seriousness of the situation is long past the crisis point.”

There were three black head coaches in the 2021 season, but Flores and Houston’s David Culley was fired in January. Flores was replaced by Mike McDaniel, who is multiracial, while Culley was followed by Lovie Smith, who is black and has twice been NFL head coach.

“The Rooney Rule has proven to be something that owners used to deceptively seem to seek true diversity,” Sharpton said. “We need to have set goals and schedules.”

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said of the meeting, which was held virtually: “We had a productive and thoughtful conversation as the NFL shares the goal of ensuring that everyone has equal access to opportunities. We look forward to continuing the dialogue.”

Leaders said they welcomed Goodell’s earlier announcement of an independent review of the NFL’s diversity, equality and inclusion policies and initiatives. They noted that the Civil Rights and Racial Justice Society should be part of this review.

“It’s simply not enough for the league to declare its good intentions,” Johnson said. “This is a protracted crisis that needs to be confronted with diligence and rigor.”

Williams-Skinner added that Flores’ action could be a catalyst for change.

“We agree that Coach Flores’ lawsuit gives the league an opportunity to engage in significant change and we will do everything in our power to ensure that opportunity is not wasted,” she said.

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