Several Black NFL coaches fired – League under scrutiny
Carol Ozemhoya | OW Contributor | 1/2/2019, 10:17 a.m.
Steve Wilks, the African American coach of the Arizona Cardinal, was only given one year to prove himself, as he was fired from the 3-13 NFL franchise. He is one of several Black coaches that go the ax at the end if the 2018 NFL season.
The NFL was quick to respond, letting fans know it is very aware of the problem with minorities in high positions in the league. According to the New York Times, the NFL’s 32 owners made an unexpected announcement after meeting a few weeks ago: the league would be strengthening rules that obligate teams to consider minority candidates when hiring coaches and executives in their front offices. However, the move came with a comment that seemed to indicate the league knew there was a problem before the firings. NFL officials said the league was just trying to beef up existing regulations, and not reacting to recent criticism.
“Our focus was simply: How do we make the Rooney Rule better?” Robert Gulliver, the league’s chief human resources officer, said, referring to the rule adopted in 2003 and named for Dan Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers at the time who pushed for the regulations. Now, the league’s stated commitment to the rule will be put to the test, says the Times. On Monday, the number of African-American coaches fired in 2018 soared to five, leaving only two Black coaches in a league where at least 70 percent of the players are African-Americans. Race is already a much-discussed topic in relation to the league.
Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who in 2016 began kneeling during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality toward people of color, has not played in the league for the last two seasons. His protests amplified an already polarizing debate across the country, and he has filed a grievance accusing the NFL of colluding to keep him off the field. Coaches losing their jobs at the conclusion of the regular season is routine and expected, as they fall victim to the merciless pressure from owners and fans to succeed year after year.
In addition to the five Black coaches fired, three white coaches were let go this season as well. But with the NFL under pressure to increase the percentage of minority coaches and executives, the makeup of the latest class of jettisoned coaches was especially startling. In October, another African-American coach, Hue Jackson (Cleveland Browns), was fired after his teams were 3-36-1 in roughly two and a half seasons. The two black head coaches still in the NFL are Anthony Lynn of the Los Angeles Chargers (12-4), which are headed to a wild-card playoff game Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, and Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6-1). Carolina Panthers Coach Ron Rivera, who is Latino, is the only other minority head coach. The Black coaches fired include Wilks, Jackson, Todd Bowles, Marvin Lewis and Vance Johnson. Louis Riddick of ESPN called the five firings “significant.”