LOS ANGELES — Falcons owner Arthur Blank, a member of the NFL’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee, believes the league has dropped the ball by not hiring more Black head coaches.
“But we have failed when it comes to (hiring Black) head coaches,” Blank said Wednesday during an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We’ve not made the kind of progress that we would like to see. So, I think what the commissioner (Roger Goodell) said this morning is accurate. We’re going to have to take apart all pieces of the puzzles and examine every piece and make sure that we are doing all of this correctly.”
NFL teams hired nine head coaches in this hiring cycle, and only one was Black. Houston hired Lovie Smith. Miami hired Mike McDaniel, who is biracial.
Credit: File Photo
Credit: File Photo
Blank has been on the committee that introduced the original Rooney Rule, which required teams to interview Black candidates. The league has attempted to tweak the rule several times but has not had success with teams hiring Black head coaches.
Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin was the league’s only Black coach before Smith was hired. Washington has Ron Rivera, who is Hispanic, and the Jets have Robert Saleh, who is a Lebanese-American.
“At the end of the day, you cannot have a situation where you have three Black coaches in the NFL out of 32 franchises where you have 70% plus of your players are African-American,” Blank said. “It’s not a defendable position, and it’s not.”
Former Miami coach Brian Flores has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the NFL.
The league initially said the lawsuit was meritless, but Goodell has admitted that the hiring practices are unacceptable.
“Racism or any form of discrimination is against our values,” Goodell said. “Really something that we will not tolerate.”
He pointed out that teams need to focus on what’s going on during the hiring process.
“What’s good and what’s bad,” Goodell said. “What’s not leading us to the results we expect to have. We will spend an extraordinarily amount of time with our committees, particularly our diversity, equity and inclusion committee. But also with our membership in general to sort of talk about the process. We have made a tremendous amount of progress in a lot of areas but not at the head coach.”
Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter
Blank has hired five head coaches, and none are Black. But he has had two Black interim head coaches in Emmitt Thomas and Raheem Morris. Blank said he plans to keep working for change.
“So, that’s what needs to change,” he said. “I’m going to roll up my sleeves and do everything that I can. I think the devil is always in the details.”
Most of the hires were offensive-minded coaches, and Blank pointed out that there are not a lot of Black coaches on offense, which reduces the number of candidates.
“We need to be able to make sure those pools are as big as they need to be,” Blank said.
”Every time I had this conversation with Congressman (John) Lewis or Andy Young, they always said the same thing to me,” Blank said. “They both said the same thing to me, independently. Can we start out being positive and talk about you know, history. Where we’ve been and the progress that we’ve made to date. So, if you look at the league office, there has been tremendous progress.”
Blank noted the Falcons’ personnel department is more than 50% Black, and the coaching staff is well-represented, too.
“So, I think we have to acknowledge that there’s progress being made,” he said.
But Blank emphasized that the head-coaching situation is not defendable.
D. Orlando Ledbetter, Esq is the award-winning Atlanta Falcons beat writer for the newspaper, has been on the staff since 2003. Every day D. Orlando strives to provide inside in the Falcons and the NFL. He finds the most joy in providing insight into the team, the coaching moves, the offseason business moves, the draft and the games.