Updated, 4:25 p.m.:
The diversity group that works with the NFL on minority hiring issues sent a complaint to the league Wednesday about the manner in which the Washington Redskins conducted their general manager search.
John Wooten, the chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, said the Redskins did not notify the league as required before they interviewed New York Jets executive Rod Graves this week.
“We feel this was not a mistake,” Wooten said. “We feel this was intentional. That’s why we sent a complaint to the league. They did not file their request [to interview Graves] with the league. They did get permission from the Jets. But they’re supposed to file their request with the league. That’s how we can monitor what’s going on.”
The league said it did not consider the Redskins’ actions a violation of the sport’s tampering rules, as the Fritz Pollard Alliance alleged, but it would remind all teams to follow proper procedures.
A written statement issued by the league said: “Our office confirmed that the Redskins obtained verbal permission from the Jets in advance of interviewing Rod Graves for the general manager position and, therefore, we find no violation of the anti-tampering policy. We informed the Fritz Pollard Alliance that we will remind Washington and all of our teams of the expectation that our office will be notified in writing whenever permission to interview an employee of another club is sought.”
Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie said: “We always comply to all league rules and policies in regards to hiring procedures.”
The Fritz Pollard Alliance said it did believe that the Redskins violated tampering rules.
“We feel it violates the tampering rules and it was part of them trying to get around the Rooney Rule,” Wooten said. “I don’t think it violated the letter of the [Rooney] rule. It violated the spirit of the rule. Rod Graves is top shelf. But it seems like they were just trying to satisfy the rule so they could hire Scot McCloughan. That’s why we have the requests filed with the league, so we can monitor the process. That allows us to make sure you’re doing things right and you’re not just interviewing the guy down the hall.”
Wooten said, before the league issued its statement, that it would leave any possible punishment of the Redskins up to the NFL.
“We’ll leave that up to them and their judgment,” Wooten said.
The Redskins interviewed Graves, the Jets’ senior director of football administration, on Monday, according to Wooten. Graves is the former general manager of the Arizona Cardinals and is serving as the Jets’ interim GM after that team fired John Idzik. He is among the candidates for the Jets’ general manager job.
The Redskins completed a deal Wednesday to hire McCloughan, the former general manager of the San Francisco 49ers, for their GM job, according to multiple people familiar with the deliberations.
The interview of Graves, who is African American, fulfilled the NFL’s requirement that each team interview at least one minority candidate for a general manager or GM-like position. The so-called Rooney Rule, named for Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, was extended to general manager jobs by the NFL in 2009 after previously applying to head coaching vacancies.
But league rules require that any team conducting an interview formally request permissionfrom that person’s current franchise and notify the NFL office of the interview.
The league has punished teams in the past for violations of the tampering rules.
The NFL stripped the 49ers of a fifth-round draft pick in 2008 for tampering with Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs. The teams also were ordered by the league to exchange third-round draft positions. The NFL found that the 49ers improperly contacted Briggs’s agent during the 2007 season while he was under contract to the Bears.
But that was a violation involving a player, not a front-office executive involved in the interviewing process.
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