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Sunday, May 26, 2024

​​NFLPA Begins New Era With Old Rooney Rule Problem

  • The NFLPA's new executive director will inherit the league's diversity issues.
  • DeMaurice Smith is calling for big changes as he exits after 14 years in charge.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bringing impactful change to the NFL’s diversity efforts will be one of the biggest challenges for new NFLPA executive director Lloyd Howell when he officially takes over for DeMaurice Smith.

After 14 years at the helm, Smith isn’t being shy about his feelings toward the league’s powerbrokers on his way out. 

Smith co-authored an article for a future issue of the Yale Law and Policy Review titled, “The Rooney Suggestion: How the ‘Rule’ Has Failed to Defeat Systemic and Institutional Barriers to Fair and Equitable Hiring Practices in the NFL and Recommendations for Meaningful Reform.”

In his article, Smith suggests scrapping the Rooney Rule entirely and stopping requiring coaches to seek permission from team owners to apply for positions with other teams. Currently, teams are rewarded when a minority coach or executive is hired by another team in the form of two third-round compensatory picks. 

He also calls for more extensive reviews of hiring practices and stronger punishments for teams not following hiring guidelines.

There are currently only six minority head coaches and nine minority general managers in the NFL, and a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores is ongoing. Flores, who is Black, sued the NFL and three teams. He is currently the defensive coordinator for the MInnesota Vikings.

“It’s not like the league hasn’t known the Rooney Rule hasn’t done everything they initially wanted it to do,” SportsCorp’s Marc Ganis, a longtime consultant to the league, told Front Office Sports. “This is why they’ve continued to put the resources they have into the diversity issue. The Rooney Rule is really just the beginning on this issue, and not an end point.”

Howell’s official start date hasn’t been announced, but he’ll likely be in charge by early 2024.

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