Facing a litany of questions over allegations of racist hiring practices and limited numbers of Black head coaches and league executives, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in Inglewood Wednesday the league will undergo a thorough evaluation of its practices to identify where improvements can be made.
And he said he has had multiple discussions with Los Angeles media mogul Byron Allen, who could become the NFL’s first Black majority team owner if he follows through with a bid to purchase the Denver Broncos.
“We have met with Byron a couple of times, both myself personally as well as our staff,” Goodell said outside SoFi Stadium Wednesday during his annual pre-Super Bowl news conference. “He is not the only individual that’s interested in buying an NFL team that is Black.
“And we have worked hard to make sure we have as many candidates as possible and put them in a position to succeed — explaining our policies, our ownership rules, what we can do to make sure they are best prepared to enter into the process of acquiring a franchise and have a full understanding of what it will take to do that, both financially and from a policy standpoint.”
Allen, who began as a comedian, went on to build an empire that now includes 16 television stations in 12 markets, 10 round-the-clock networks including The Weather Channel, a movie distribution company and TheGrio, a digital, video-centric news platform providing Black-oriented entertainment, news and lifestyle content. He has confirmed his interest in bidding for the Broncos, suggesting the move could lead to “positive changes throughout the league.”
Securing a Black owner would be a major advancement for a league that finds itself under fire for a lack of diversity among its head-coaching ranks. A recent lawsuit filed by former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores accused the league of racist hiring policies. Of the nine recent NFL head coaching vacancies, only the Houston Texans hired a Black coach — Lovie Smith. The Miami Dolphins hired Mike McDaniel, who is described as bi-racial.
Goodell said the league has to do a better job, and it will review all of its hiring practices, including the “Rooney Rule,” which requires teams to interview at least two external diverse candidates for head-coaching vacancies.
“I think we’ve made a tremendous amount of progress in a lot of areas, but not at the head coach, and that is something that we really had focused on to get the kind of results that we would expect. And we fell short of that by a longshot,” Goodell said.
He said minority candidates are getting interviews, and many teams are exceeding the requirements of the Rooney Rule. Yet Black hires remain elusive.
“What we want to try to see is the outcomes. What we want to see is Black head coaches in the NFL and coaches of color and eventually gender,” he said. “… So it’s an inclusive process and hopefully an inclusive outcome. So what we’re going to do is step back and look at everything we’re doing today, reevaluate that. Everything from looking at the Rooney Rule and seeing what changes should be made to that, if any changes, or should it be removed, which some people have suggested.
“All of those things are a part of that. We’re going to talk to other people, have independent people come in and look and help us evaluate it. Because it’s sometimes hard to evaluate your own policies and procedures and make sure we’re doing everything we possibly can to make sure we create that opportunity for everybody to make sure we are an inclusive league and make sure we get the outcomes we want.”
Peppered by reporters with questions on the topic, he reiterated that the league has failed in its effort to boost diversity in the coaching ranks.
“Particularly with the head coaches, we have more work to do,” he said. “And we’ve got to figure that out. … To me this is an opportunity for us to step back, look at what we’re doing, look at what we should be doing and how we can lead to better results. … All of that hopefully will lead us to a better place.”