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Former Miami Dolphins Coach Brian Flores Challenges the NFL’s Rooney Rule

MARK GILCHRIST, HOST: The New York Giants are being sued - Along with the NFL, the Denver Broncos and the Miami Dolphins. Bringing the suit is former Miami Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores - who is both black and hispanic. Flores accuses the Giants and Broncos of racist hiring practices. He claims both teams fraudulently interviewed him for Head Coaching jobs that he was not actually being considered for in order to satisfy the NFL’s “Rooney Rule.”

Michael McCann is Director of the Sports & Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law, and was a Legal Analyst and Writer at Sports Illustrated Magazine for more than a decade. I asked him to explain what the Rooney Rule is and why it’s now being challenged in this lawsuit.

Michael McCann, Welcome to the program!

Let’s discuss the lawsuits of former Miami Dolphins Head Coach, Brian Flores.

To give a bit of background first, Coach Flores, who is both black and Hispanic, is suing the NFL, headquartered here in New York City, and three of its teams - The New York Giants, Denver Broncos, and Miami Dolphins - for racial discrimination.

He claims that, after leading his team in two back-to-back winning seasons, he was fired, in part, because he refused to take bribes offered by his team owner to lose games in an attempt to get better draft picks as a lower ranked team.

He also claims both the New York Giants and Denver Broncos fraudulently interviewed him for Head Coach jobs that he was not actually being considered for to satisfy the NFL’s “Rooney Rule.”

Professor McCann, would you please describe the Rooney Rule?

MCCANN: The Rooney Rule is designed to guarantee that teams will interview minority candidates for high ranking positions. And the logic behind the rule is that interviewing candidates, the team otherwise wouldn’t interview, they're going to meet someone they might really like and hire that person.

So the logic of it is, I would say very good. I think it's well intended. What we have seen, however, is that it hasn't worked in the sense that it hasn't led to a diverse set of hires, there still are very few African American coaches, and league executives in the NFL, despite the Rooney rule.

GILCHRIST: And, in the past, have there been any other minority NFL coaching candidates who have made allegations like this that the have gone through this process and that they, you know, them solely to meet the NFL Rooney Rule interview requirement?

MCCANN: The NFL like, like a lot of sports leagues are very insulated entities, it's hard to sort of challenge the system. So Flores is doing something that we haven't seen in the sense of just directly saying, this whole thing is unfair, it's illegal, it's discriminatory, whatever, whatever word you want to use. We have heard grumblings in the past that coaches, candidates don't feel as if they've had the same sort of opportunity, but not to this level.

GILCHRIST:How have other sports leagues been doing on comparison to the NFL in terms of cultivating black and other minority coaches and senior staff into their ranks?

MCCANN: Yeah, the NBA has done the best at that. And part of it is that many coaches were players. And I think that that leads to a more diverse population pool for coaches. And there are increasingly executives of NBA teams that are black. t it's a much more diverse group. But again, part of it is is how is sort of the career trajectory of these things that in the NBA, a coach often was a player. So that leads to a population pool that tends to be more black, whereas in the NFL. There are former players, but many of the foreign players that have ascended as coaches, Lee's head coaches have been white, which of course invites the question of why

GILCHRIST:Other than setting up some kind of quota system, what other options might the NFL have to create more black head coaches in a league in which 70% of the players are black?

MCCANN: Yeah, I think the league we having a black owner, I think would be a good first step, right that this is part is when there are these ownership meetings, there's no one in the room, at least among the lead owners that is black. One challenge to all of this is that NFL teams are becoming so expensive, that department that the number of people that can afford NFL team is really small, the Denver Broncos are expected to be sold for about 5 billion, maybe more.

GILCHRIST: Five Billion is a big number. I imagine not even the kind of money the NFL could even lend if it wanted to.

MCCANN: Yeah haha

GILCHRIST: Michael McCann. Thank you for being on the show.

MCCANN: Thank you for having me.


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