NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith suggests Rooney Rule alternative

While the NFL’s Rooney Rule was presumably created with good intentions, many have been critical of the policy and its actual effectiveness in providing opportunities for minority candidates to land front office or head coaching positions.

While DeMaurice Smith’s 14-year run as executive director of the NFL Players’ Association ends this month, he’s among those who believe it’s time for the NFL to end the Rooney Rule and implement a series of guidelines to ensure more diverse hiring decisions in the NFL. He outlined these guidelines in a 100-page paper he co-authored with Yale law student Carl Lasker.

“The NFL’s system is broken,” they wrote. “To fix it, owners need to abandon the Rooney Rule as a failure and replace their unchecked discretion with comprehensive requirements to eliminate discrimination, ensure fairness, improve diversity, and build an equitable, transparent, and accountable system.”

Many have argued that the Rooney Rule, which has been in place for the last two decades, has done little to advance the number diverse coaching hires. When the policy was created, there were two Black head coaches; today there are only four.

Smith and Lasker’s 12 recommendations for increasing diverse hires touch on many subjects and propose the following:

  • Elimination of “check-the-box” hiring protocols
  • No longer requiring prospective coaching candidates to request permission to apply for jobs with other teams
  • A periodic audit of team hiring processes by an outside council
  • League-wide job descriptions and contracts created by the league’s chief diversity officer
  • Strict and significant punishment for teams that fail to abide by the league’s diversity hiring recommendations
  • Uniform and consistent evaluation guidelines for all coaching, senior and executive positions
  • Every coaching, senior and executive position be posted and held open for at least 30 days
  • The NFL should not oppose the unionizing of head or assistant coaches

Citing an NFLPA survey stating that 90 percent of NFL coaches believe the league and its owners don’t obey federal discrimination laws, Smith and Lasker maintain that their 12 recommendations will not only help improve the NFL’s diversity hiring issue, but also create a system of accountability for team owners in non-compliance.

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