PALM BEACH, Fla. — The NFL enacted diversity measures Monday, including a requirement that each team have a minority assistant coach in a significant role on its offensive staff.
“Obviously we’re still not seeing the kind of progress that we would like to see on the head coaching front,” said Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II, the chairman of the NFL’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee. “And so we have been focusing on that effort and how we can improve our processes. ... We have been listening to people inside and outside the football community in terms of how we can improve. ... A lot of effort is being made, and, again, [there’s] a recognition that while we’ve seen progress in certain fronts, we still have a way to go on other fronts.”
The league’s latest efforts came as Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin, one of the NFL’s two Black head coaches, said earlier in the day that he was not confident the league’s next set of diversity measures necessarily would improve its minority hiring.
Tomlin, speaking at the league’s annual meetings, said he has not been involved in the NFL’s deliberations over the steps it will take to address its diversity issues. The league is facing allegations of racial discrimination in a lawsuit filed by former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, now a Steelers assistant, and NFL leaders have vowed to reexamine every aspect of the league’s minority hiring procedures and take action.
“I haven’t been in any discussions, and, no, I don’t have a level of confidence that would lead me to believe that things are going to be better,” Tomlin said. “I’m more of a show-me guy as opposed to a guy that sits around and talks about things.”
The new minority offensive assistant requirement comes as part of an initiative that will be partially funded by the league. The coach must have at least three years of college or pro coaching experience and must work closely with the head coach and offensive coordinator.
“We clearly have a trend where our head coaches are coming from the offensive side of the ball in recent years,” Rooney said. “And we clearly do not have as many minorities in the offensive coordinator positions. So without oversimplifying it, it’s really an effort to try to bring more talented minority coaches to the offensive side of the ball.”
The new advisory committee includes Rick Smith, former general manager of the Houston Texans; Don Thompson, former president and CEO of McDonald’s; Peter Harvey, New Jersey’s former attorney general; Pamela Carlton, founder and president of Springboard; Patricia Brown Holmes, managing partner at Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila; and Stefanie K. Johnson, associate professor at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business.
“This is a process,” said Jonathan Beane, the NFL’s chief diversity and inclusion officer. “And we do have some recommendations that came forward by the [diversity] committee now. There will be more later. ... This is the beginning. There’s a lot of work to be done, and we’re ready to do that.”
The NFL’s resolution on minority ownership comes with the Denver Broncos up for sale. The league has no Black principal owners.
“The NFL member clubs support the important goal of increasing diversity among ownership,” the league said in a statement. “Accordingly, when evaluating a prospective ownership group of a member club pursuant to League policies, the membership will regard it as a positive and meaningful factor if the group includes diverse individuals who would have a significant equity stake in and involvement with the club, including serving as the controlling owner of the club.”
One of the NFL’s nine head coaching vacancies this offseason was filled by a Black coach, with the Texans’ hiring of Lovie Smith. He and Tomlin are the league’s only active Black head coaches. The Dolphins hired Mike McDaniel, who is multiracial, to replace Flores as their coach.
Asked what must be addressed, Tomlin said Monday: “The hiring itself. I think that we’ve pecked around the entire discussion and subject and we’ve done a lot of beneficial things, but we’ve got to land the plane. We’ve got to hire capable candidates.”
Commissioner Roger Goodell said during Super Bowl week that the NFL will not “take anything off the table” as it seeks to address its minority hiring. Troy Vincent, the executive vice president of football operations, said at the NFL combine that the league must “look at everything.”
When asked Monday why he added Flores to his staff, Tomlin said, “Because he’s a more than capable football coach.”
Tomlin said he and Flores had been “in continual conversation since his legal action started” and he wanted to support Flores. Their job discussions began after all head coaching vacancies were filled and “really moved rather quickly” from there, Tomlin said.
“I’m sure that was his concern,” Tomlin said when asked whether he was worried that Flores might remain unemployed if the Steelers hadn’t hired him. “I think from my perspective and where I sat, I just think I was more excited about the opportunity to have a more than qualified coach.”