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NFL Institutes Rules Changes To Help Improve Diversity In Hiring

Assistants can no longer be blocked from 'bona fide' coaching promotions

Cardinals cornerbacks coach Greg Williams (left), defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson (center) and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph (right) during a game in San Francisco last season.
Cardinals cornerbacks coach Greg Williams (left), defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson (center) and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph (right) during a game in San Francisco last season.

In an effort to spark more minority hiring and increase opportunities for minorities and women across the league, NFL owners approved Tuesday a new resolution and rules changes surrounding hiring for both coaches and front-office personnel.

The resolution change was a big one – changing the current anti-tampering policy for coaches and front office personnel so it is now prohibited to block an assistant coach under contract from interviewing with a new team for a "bona fide" coordinator spot as a coach or to block a non-high-level football executive from interviewing for a "bona fide" assistant general manager position.

Teams must also submit in writing their organizational structure – including job descriptions for any coordinators or co-coordinators. Commissioner Roger Goodell will oversee any disputes of whether a team is offering a "bona fide" job.

"The facts are, we have a broken system," NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent told reporters on a conference call, adding there has long been a battle "to get mobility that has disproportionately affected people of color."

The Rooney Rule, originally set up to require a minority candidate be interviewed for head coaching vacancies, also was enhanced. Teams must now interview at least two external minority candidates for head coaching jobs and at least one for any coordinator opening.

Teams must also interview at least one external minority candidate for a senior football operations or general manager job, and now, the Rooney Rule will apply for senior level positions across the organizations beyond football operations – such as finance, marketing, sales or communications.

"We believe these new policies demonstrate the NFL Owners' commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in the NFL," said Steelers owner Art Rooney II, who is chairman of the NFL's Workplace Diversity Committee, in a statement released by the league. "The development of young coaches and young executives is a key to our future. These steps will assure coaching and football personnel are afforded a fair and equitable opportunity to advance throughout our football operations. We also have taken important steps to ensure that our front offices, which represent our clubs in so many different ways, come to reflect the true diversity of our fans and our country."

Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill also serves on the Workplace Diversity Committee.

The proposal that would provide incentives for hiring minorities as coaches or general managers – such as improving certain draft choices – was tabled.

The league also announced all 32 teams will host a coaching fellowship program – full-time coaching slots for minorities/women lasting for one or two years. The Cardinals already had the Bill Bidwill Fellowship in place, beginning in 2015 when Levon Kirkland was hired. He was followed by Terry Allen in 2017 and Don Shumpert last year.

"The NFL is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, which I believe is critical to our continued success," Goodell said in a statement. "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."