February is famously celebrated as Black History Month. A month in which the world at large, recognizes the accomplishments and contributions that Black people around the world have provided to the world. All over offices, dwellings and billboards there are signs of celebratory offerings of historical events that have provided information and understanding to the plight that many Blacks faced and obstacles overcame throughout time in an effort to simply exist with egalitarian purpose without prejudice and bigotry. Over the years, strides have been made to amplify the cause of Black people to have their existence catapulted to level of inclusiveness and parity, however with all due respect, these strides often times become null and void as older practices of racism and bigotry pervade mainstream economics, business, and sports.
The beginning of February 2022 marked yet another year to celebrate Black History Month, however it was marred by the shocking revelation by former National Football League Head coach Brian Flores. Who was recently fired by the Miami Dolphins after willing his team to a respectable season (9-8 record), albeit without a playoff berth – Flores filed a class action lawsuit detailing what he claims to be racist hiring practices by the National Football League (NFL). The league currently has 2 black head coaches, a paltry comparison to the dominance that is shown by black athletes at the player level. Although given the opportunity to interview for another head coaching position, Flores was floored by a text he received inadvertently by fellow coach Bill Belichick that he would name the next coach of the New York Giants (of note: The New York Giants have never hired a Black coach). The only problem was that Coach Belichick texted the wrong the “Brian”. He had meant to message another Brian, Brian Daboll. A white coach who would later be named Head coach of the fledgling Giants. Flores called foul and subsequently filed a class action suit against the NFL and various teams in the league.
The only problem was that Coach Belichick texted the wrong the “Brian”.
Flores’ suit further brings to light something that has not been in the dark for quite some time. The NFL’s inability to provide a marginal increase in racial equality as it pertains to the hiring of Black coaches in a league who’s current fabric is driven by an overwhelming majority of Black athletes. These players have elevated the game to astronomical levels pushing the trajectory of profit to the multi-billion dollar state that it currently sits at. The NFL has poked, prodded and combed through the streets of cities and communities scouting the next batch of the finest athletes to join what seems like a never-ending cycle. One of black athletes propelling themselves to the biggest stage, bringing NFL franchises fame and fortunte at the cost of their mental and physical health. Then at the completion of their playing careers built up of extensive experience and achievements, are told that their services are no longer needed at the executive or coaching levels.
Even with the implementation of the Rooney Rule, a statute that states that every NFL team interviewing for a Head coach must interview at least one minority. This rule came about in the 2000s and to this day, still has not garnered the necessary traction needed to solidify some type of semblance of collective equality to hiring practices. As a matter of fact, it has been a failure of epic proportions that not only provides a false sense of hope to minorities that apply, but also signals a distinct disdain for change in one of the oldest “old boy’s” clubs in North America. Not even recent events associated with the reason for Colin Kaepernick kneeling could change their minds when underscoring America’s ill treatment of black people. Even with their pockets being lined with money and TV endorsement deals off the blood, sweat and concussions of minority players.
it has been a failure of epic proportions that not only provides a false sense of hope to minorities that apply, but also signals a distinct disdain for change in one of the oldest “old boy’s” clubs in North America.
The shortest month of the year is the month we have been given to honor those that have laid the foundation and groundwork for societies throughout the world, allowing our younger generations to familiarize themselves with a vast and expansive history. American history is marred by the struggles that black people endured and continue to endure to this day. The triumphs of Jackie Robinson in major league baseball and the exploits of Willie O’Ree in the National Hockey League ignited a multitude of change at the player level in various professional sports. For young and upcoming black players with dreams of playing their favorite sports in front of millions admiring fans while proudly donning jerseys of teams who once disallowed their predecessors from doing the same, is a feat many wish to accomplish.
The National Football League employs 1700 players with 70% of them identifying as African-American. Conversely, the NFL employs only 2 black head coaches, which put into perspective on a comparative level – asks the question: “what if the National Hockey League only had 2 white head coaches?” The sports world would be up in arms, and with good reason. Having been through the arduous process of becoming an NFL player, I’ve been subject to coaching from various coaches from all ethnicities, however the ones that resonated and made a difference in my life, are the one that looked like me, talked liked me and had been exposed to the same lived and learned experience. At the pinnacle – The NFL, looks nothing like the grassroots programs that house many of the athletes they poke, prod and prepare for Sunday afternoon gridiron matches. It is decidedly white, with the odd black, minority and female assistant or positional coaches, speckled throughout, perhaps to appease the masses and its proverbial cancel culture.
With legalities and civil suits looming above the heads of NFL owners and commissioner Roger Goodell, this complaint will now be heard at some of the highest courts in America with a resolution that should satisfy the pocketbooks of those listed as complainants. The question remains as to whether monetary compensation will be enough to enlist fundamental changes that will have the locks removed from the doors of front office, executive and coaching positions.
The question remains as to whether monetary compensation will be enough to enlist fundamental changes that will have the locks removed from the doors of front office, executive and coaching positions.
As we reflect on Black History month, we are reminded that while the plight of the Black man in America is storied, studied and sullied – it is without a shadow of doubt that monumental change must occur in order to really be proud of progress made in all levels of society – not just the NFL. The National Football league represents a smaller dichotomy of entrenched historical biases and bigotry that permeates the fabric colonial societies that continue to thrive off the laborious endeavors of Blacks who simply seek to be treated as qualified assets to establishments and not cotton-pickers with cleats and shoulder pads.
A Big shout out goes to Lovie Smith, the former defensive coordinator of the Houston Texans who was just recently hired by the same team as their new head coach. It’s important to celebrate any hiring, especially that of a Black coach, even though his hiring comes in the midst of a scathing class action suit filed by his counterpart. Let’s hope that this is the beginning of something to reinvigorate the prejudicial hiring process and not just to placate an already unnerved racial demographic still waiting on their 40 acres and a mule.