The Rooney Rule is an affirmative action regulation that requires NFL teams interview at least one minority candidate before hiring a coach. It was established in 2003, after head coaches Tony Dungy and Dennis Green had just been fired, even though Dungy had a winning record and Green had only one losing season. Civil rights attorneys Cyrus Mehri and Johnnie Cochran then released a study showing that minority coaches were more likely to be fired, and less likely to be hired, than white coaches. And now the NFL is investigating the Oakland Raiders for violating that rule.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy announced on Thursday that the league is “looking into” whether or not the Raiders violated the rule after the Fritz Pollard Alliance raised the issue. THe Fritz Pollard Alliance is a non-profit organization which promotes diversity in coaching in the NFL.
“We are deeply concerned by reports that the Oakland Raiders’ owner, Mark Davis, came to an agreement with Jon Gruden about him becoming the Raiders’ next head coach before interviewing any candidates of color,” the group said in a statement on Wednesday. “If so, the Club violated the Rooney Rule, which was instituted by the NFL in 2003 and requires teams to interview at least one candidate of color for open head coaching and general manager positions. As soon as we learned of the reports, we formally requested that the NFL thoroughly investigate the matter to conclusively determine whether the Rooney Rule was violated — and if it was violated, to impose an appropriate punishment.”
The news spread after Raiders owner Mark Davis admitted to reaching a verbal agreement with Gruden before firing Jack Del Rio. This, according to the Fritz Pollard Alliance, means that the job never officially went vacant — and that it was not possible for the team to interview minority candidates and comply with the Rooney Rule.
The alliance then asked if it was allowed for teams to do something like this as a means of getting around the rule. So far, the league has not given an answer; however, Ian Rapoport claims that the team did interview two minority candidates.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 9, 2018
If the team decided to hire Gruden before conducting those interviews, though, they could still be in trouble. “But if in December, Gruden and Davis reach an agreement—not necessarily a written, contractual agreement, but a verbal agreement—that Gruden was going to coach for the Raiders, and then after that they do these interviews with minority coaches, that would be a violation of the Rooney Rule,” the Fritz Pollard Alliance’s Cyrus Mehri said.
The Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman called the hiring a “total sham” on Twitter, and said that everyone in the league knew it.
I'm writing on how the Raiders hiring Gruden is an excellent hire. And it really is.
But they're making a total sham of the Rooney Rule. Everyone knows it. Everyone in the league is talking about it. Total sham.
— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) January 1, 2018
Do you think they violated the Rooney Rule?