“We table resolutions frequently because the discussion leads to other ideas that make it more effective,” Goodell said in a conference call with reporters.
Goodell said there was “a great deal of support” for the proposal. Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, said: “There’s no rush for this. Let’s get this right.”
The NFL is taking other steps to strengthen its minority hiring practices, including requiring teams and the league office to consider minority and female candidates for a wide range of executive positions and hosting coaching fellowship programs by all teams for minority coaches. Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney, the chairman of the NFL’s workplace diversity committee, said each team will be required to develop a diversity and inclusion plan.
Owners also ratified a resolution Tuesday, proposed by the diversity committee and the NFL’s competition committee, by which a team cannot block an assistant coach from interviewing for a coordinator job with another team or a front-office executive from interviewing for an assistant GM role with another franchise.
Vincent acknowledged that the NFL has “a broken system” but said the provision to prevent teams from blocking interviews is particularly significant for minority coaches. Vincent said it is important for coaches “to get mobility that has disproportionately affected people of color.”
The league also is moving ahead with other diversity measures that do not require votes of the owners. That includes requiring teams to interview at least two minority candidates from outside the organization, instead of one, to satisfy the Rooney Rule with head coaching vacancies, and formally applying the rule to openings for coordinator jobs. To this point, the league had only applied the Rooney Rule to coordinator vacancies on an informal basis, instructing teams to comply as a best practice but not imposing penalties for noncompliance.
But the draft-position proposal is on hold. Under the proposal, a team could have moved up six spots in the third round by hiring a minority head coach and 10 spots by hiring a minority GM. Rooney said the league and owners will “take an additional look and get more input on” the measure.
The proposal was made after a firing-and-hiring cycle this offseason in which only one minority head coach was hired. That was the Washington Redskins’ Ron Rivera, who held the same position this past season for the Carolina Panthers. No African American head coaches were hired.
The measure would have represented a shift from the NFL’s usual approach to minority hiring. The league usually has stressed opportunities for minority candidates. The long-standing Rooney Rule — named for late Steelers owner Dan Rooney, Art Rooney’s father and the former chairman of the diversity committee — requires teams to interview minority candidates but does not address hiring decisions. This proposal would have created incentives for owners and teams to hire minority candidates.
The concept of linking incentives to minority hiring as in other industries was praised by Cyrus Mehri, co-founder of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, the diversity group that works closely with the NFL on its minority hiring. But some prominent African American coaches expressed reservations about the proposed approach, including Los Angeles Chargers Coach Anthony Lynn and Tony Dungy, the former coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts who now is an analyst with NBC.
Four of the 32 NFL teams have minority head coaches: Rivera with the Redskins, Lynn with the Chargers, Mike Tomlin with the Steelers and Brian Flores with the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins’ Chris Grier and the Cleveland Browns’ Andrew Berry are the league’s only African American general managers.
Goodell said the Rooney Rule “is still effective” and “is being expanded” but added, “Our work is not done.”