NFL to eye diversity efforts in the wake of Flores suit

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The results of the NFL’s coaching diversity efforts are “unacceptable,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a note issued to all clubs Saturday morning.

The memo, entitled “Our Commitment to Diversity, Justice, and Inclusion,” appears four days after the NFL made claims in coach Brian Flores’ lawsuit over discrimination in the “no-profit” hiring process.

Flores, who was fired by the Miami Dolphins on Jan. 10 despite back-to-back victory seasons, hopes to “shine a light on the racial injustices taking place in the NFL,” according to his lawsuit filed this week.

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is the league’s only current black head coach.

“Racism and any form of discrimination is contrary to NFL values,” Goodell said. “We have made significant efforts to promote diversity and adopted several policies and programs that have brought about positive change in many areas, but we must recognize that, especially with regard to head coaches, the results have been unacceptable. We will re-evaluate and examine all policies. , guidelines and initiatives related to diversity, equality and inclusion. “

The memo also stressed that “we understand the concerns” of Flores and others this week.

Flores’ lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from the NFL, while aiming to increase the influence of black individuals in the hiring process, objectivity in hiring for prominent positions, and transparency in pay, among other issues. Flores is suing the Denver Broncos and New York Giants for discrimination during interview processes, along with the Dolphins over his dismissal last month and owner Stephen Ross ‘efforts to undermine Flores’ job. Among Flores’ claims: Ross tried to encourage Flores to lose games with $ 100,000 bonuses for every loss in 2019; Broncos director John Elway appears as a hangover during a job interview in 2019; and the Giants decided to hire now-head coach Brian Daboll before interviewing Flores. All three teams have vehemently denied Flores’ claims.

Flores’ lawyers issued a statement Saturday, saying they “suspect this is more of a public relations ploy than a real commitment to change.”

“The Commissioner’s statement today is on the surface a positive first step, but we suspect this is more of a public relations ploy than a real commitment to change,” Flores’ lawyers Douglas H. Wigdor and John Elefterakis said in a statement. “For far too many years, the NFL has been hiding behind the deck of foundations that were supposed to protect the rights of black players and coaches, all the while letting systemic racial biases take hold in their front offices. The NFL is now rolling out the same playbook once again, and it is This is exactly why this lawsuit was filed.We would be happy to talk to the Commissioner about real changes, but unfortunately he has not reached out to us to participate in such a discussion.In fact, no one from the NFL has reached out Without such a discussion followed by objective and concrete changes, we believe that a court or governmental body should order a federal monitor to oversee the NFL, as the NFL cannot continue to monitor itself. “

While the NFL has sought to strengthen the Rooney rule – which requires teams to interview minority candidates and offer draft elections to encourage minority employment – the numbers are on the decline. New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh is the only minority head coach candidate to be hired from the last two cycles – seven last year, five so far this year. The total number includes zero black coaches.

General manager candidates do better, with two black appointments – Chicago Bears ‘Ryan Poles, Minnesota Vikings’ Kwasi Adofo-Mensah – selected out of four appointments in this cycle.

“While the legal process [with Flores] moving forward, we will not wait to reassess and change our strategies to ensure that they are in line with our values ​​and long-term commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion, “said Goodell.” In particular, we recognize the need to understand they lived. experience from different members of the NFL family to ensure that everyone has access to opportunities and is treated with respect and dignity. “

The issue of game integrity will also be reviewed “thoroughly and independently” by the league, while full cooperation from the league is expected. “There is a lot of work to be done and we will embrace this moment and seize the opportunity to become a stronger, more inclusive league,” said Goodell.

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