Statistics are funny things. They can provide the support for a number of arguments as people see numbers and draw their own conclusions. There were eight head coach vacancies in the NFL this past month, and all eight were filled by white men. This has caused a number of strong soapbox reactions across the football world, such as seen on ESPN’s First Take:
I’m not going to go into the specifics of why certain coaches were hired and others weren’t, though I know the way football is becoming more high scoring, teams were desperate for innovative, offensive coaches no matter what skin color. I wanted to use this story to highlight a disturbing trend. The civil rights movement aimed to make doors open, with no discrimination based in skin color or anything else. The idea of racial quotas is an anti-civil rights idea with a good heart. These things and pursuits aim to right the wrongs of the past based on numbers. So, if any grouping is not diverse, such proponents are quick to argue that some personal or systematic racism is behind it all. Yes, there might be cases where such practices might be occurring these should be stopped by any legal means, but we need to stop throwing charges of racism out anytime we don’t approve of the colors of people hired. To flip everything around, you could certainly make the lack of diversity argument in the NBA. Starting NBA lines ups on many teams are 100% Black and the league as a whole is 80% Black. Yet, the large majority of high school basketball players are White. Yet, no one views this as some systematic effort to keep Whites from having high paying NBA jobs. In a completely open, non-racial society, blacks can be hired and can be fired without any special treatment. Whites can also be hired without hesitation. If organizations have to have the internal conversation of ‘I want to hire this guy but he is not the right race to make us diverse’, that is a set back for civil rights, not an achievement.
There might be a number of factors for the lack of new Black NFL coaches this year. Many argue that since the NFL is 70% Black then that should be reflected in the coaching numbers. Being a good player does not equate to being a good coach. At the same time, many of the best coaches were only so-so players. There are only so many candidates each year who are highly desired and it’s mainly due to bringing something exciting to the table or having track record of winning. Black coach Lovie Smith took his team to a 10-6 record this season and has a Super Bowl appearance under his belt, but was not hired. While this is very surprising, Lovie has earned a reputation as a defensive orientated coach and the league is moving in an offensive direction. I think he was more the victim of trends then someone saying ‘I don’t want to hire him because he is Black’. Not every non-hire equals racism.
There were a number of teams with Black QB’s this past NFL season. This is nothing particularly groundbreaking, but what has really struck me are the men behind the masks. BlackNEKs is fully against lazily allowing athletes to serve as your child’s role models simply because they can do something special with a ball. As parents, you should hope to be the primary role model in their lives, but if there are going to be others who your kid idolizes, push them to those athletes and celebrities doing good things in all phases of their lives. This brings me to some of the remarkable young men leading their NFL teams during this season. What stands out about them is that they are leaders on and off the field. They are proud to be able to speak well and show a high level of education. They seem to be grounded and family oriented, as opposed to ‘making it rain’ at strip clubs with posses. And three of the young men below are actually leading their teams to playoff births in only their first or second years in the league. Now I have no idea if these guys are boy scouts or not. But they do show that you can be a leader on the field and take care of business in the classroom too, and there is no conflict in manhood by doing both.
Colin Kaepernick – San Francisco 49ers
Highlights: Two time WAC All-ACADEMIC team winner in college. Won the starting job and has the 49ers finally looking as good on offense as they are on defense. 2012 Record of 11-4 and playoff bound.
Josh Freeman – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Highlights: 2012- set team record for passing yards and TD’s. 3.1 GPA in college.
Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks
Highlights: 2011 Arthur Ashe Sports Scholar of the Year. 4.0 GPA as a graduate student. 2012 record 11-5 and playoff bound. Tied record for most TD’s by a rookie.
Robert Griffin III – Washington Redskins
Highlights: 4.0 GPA and already has Masters degree. 2012 record 10-6 and playoff bound. Set records for rookie passing rating and number of interceptions (5).
Ex-Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith has quickly gotten interview requests from 4 other teams, according to Profootballtalk.com. His team fell apart this year but his past successes include appearances in a Super Bowl and 3 NFC Championships. He has coached with class, kept his team pretty much scandal free (getting more difficult to do these days), and was well liked by his players. Though the Bears missed the playoffs, they still finished with a 10-6 record, so it’s understandable why teams would be quickly lining up to at least interview him. But reading the comments from the same story, many are immediately assuming that interest in Lovie is only because of the Rooney rule. This rule was put in place to increase the number of minority candidates for NFL coaching positions. Here are some of the comments:
“Lovie is a good head coach, the amount of interest at this point seems to be teams trying to get the “rooney rule” satisfied and out of the way up front before hiring the guy they really want.”
“My guess is the Rooney rule helps, and they’ll drop a quick “if we go another way, would you want to coach the D” question in there somewhere”
“I bet this is mostly Rooney rule interest. He didn’t “wow” anyone with his performance as the Bears HC.”
The Rooney rule has the best of intentions, as many coaches (and CEOS for that matter) can’t even get their foot in the door unless they know or are connected to the right people or social club. This highlights the problem with such Affirmative-Action programs: as long as they exist, every minority considered or selected will not be assumed to have made it based on their own merits and qualifications. This assumption is also reinforce anytime a selected minority candidate underperforms, no matter how many White candidates also may have underperformed. My overall position on Affirmative-Action and the Rooney rule is that I understand the need and purpose of such actions, but ultimately the goal should be to get to a point where such policies are no longer needed. These should not be long term programs. Of strongest concern is when Affirmative-Action programs result in certain applicants being selected because they are the right racial group for a quota and others being rejected, such as what is happening with colleges and universities currently. Discrimination, no matter which color is being benefitted, is not what the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. was aiming to achieve.