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Rich McKay on NFL’s hiring diversity: ‘Where we are today, is not acceptable’

Falcons' Rich McKay on reopening of team facilities in Flowery Branch. (Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC)

Falcons president Rich McKay acknowledged that the NFL has current problems with diversity in hiring, and the NFL owners addressed some of those issues Tuesday.

“We all have to understand that where we are today is not acceptable,” McKay said on a video conference call. “We need to be better than this on the diversity front. We need to be intentional about trying to be better on that front.”

McKay is the chairman of the NFL’s powerful competition committee, which co-signed on an anti-tampering policy that passed.

“If you want to hire a coach from another staff and you want to potentially make them a coordinator, you should be allowed to interview that coach,” McKay said of the tampering rule.

Under the old anti-tampering policy a team could prohibit an assistant under contract an opportunity to interview with another team. Under the new policy, an assistant can interview with a new team for a “bona fide” coordinator role. Also, non high-level/non-secondary football executive be blocked from interviewed for a “bona fide” assistant general manager job.

Any disputes will be decided by the commissioner.

A proposal to award team draft picks for hiring minority candidates was tabled.

Also, the league announced changes to the Rooney Rule  that will require clubs to interview at least two external minority candidates for head coaching openings and at least one minority candidate for any coordinator job.

Also, teams now must interview one external minority candidate for senior football operations and general manager jobs.

Teams and the NFL league office also must include minorities and/or female applicants for senior-level positions, including club president jobs.

The controversial draft-pick proposal was pushed by the league’s workplace/diversity committee with the ideal of providing incentives for more minority hiring at the general manager and head coaching level.

“I think we all look at it this way; where we are currently today, is not acceptable,” McKay said. “We need to be better than we are. We should be better on the diversity front than what we are. We know that.”

The Rooney Rule required teams to interview minority candidates, but teams have been accused of circumventing the rule over the past two hiring cycles.

“The Rooney Rule when it was first brought in play, (Falcons owner) Arthur Blank was on the committee,” McKay said. “I was on the working group. It really did have the right intended impact. Then it definitely (has) not (had) the impact as of late. It needed to be modified in certain ways. I’m supportive of that.”

McKay, wouldn’t express his opinion on the draft-pick proposal, but hoped for changes for the league.

“What avenues that end up being, I’ll leave that to others,” McKay said. “But I do think that we need improvement, and hopefully, even the anti-tampering policies that we put forth and issues like that, putting the Rooney rule (in the forefront), whatever they may be, move us in the right direction.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell contended that the league is committed to diversity.

"While we have seen positive strides in our coaching ranks over the years aided by the Rooney Rule, we recognize, after the last two seasons, that we can and must do more,” Goodell said in a statement. “The policy changes made today are bold and demonstrate the commitment of our ownership to increase diversity in leadership positions throughout the league."

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