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A Statement by The Diversity Movement

Whether you watch football or not, you’re probably aware that The National Football League has an extraordinary impact on American society and culture. The NFL generates hundreds of billions of dollars each year, from the restaurants where fans watch games to the merchandise they wear and advertising they watch. The common denominator is that this vast revenue is derived from all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, education, physical and mental ability, income, sexual orientation, occupation,or gender. 

But, rather than set the tone for inclusion  and realize its role as a culture driver and global role model – particularly when an estimated 70% of its players are Black – the league faces yet another in a long line of controversies regarding its racially discriminatory practices.

Racial Injustices

“On the first day of Black History Month, former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has filed a race discrimination class action to shine a light on the racial injustices that take place inside the NFL.” – Tweet from law firm Wigdor LLP

Flores filed this class-action suit against the NFL and three teams (New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos), accusing them of racial discrimination in hiring practices. 

The lawsuit alleges that the NFL and its teams have violated Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866; the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination; the New York State Human Rights Law; and the New York City Human Rights Law.

Sham Interviews

At the heart of Flores’ accusations is that NFL owners knowingly endorse discriminatory hiring practices against Black candidates for coaching and front-office vacancies. In addition, Flores himself was interviewed for a head coach position when New York Giants ownership had already decided to hire a White coach. 

Flores alleges that this practice of sham interviews is pervasive and a way for owners to circumvent the Rooney Rule – an NFL policy established in 2003 requiring teams to interview ethnic-minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. The Rooney Rule was implemented to ensure diverse candidates were included in the interview pool.  

The Flores lawsuit is the latest in a series of controversies the NFL has faced over the last decade, including player safety and head injuries, off-field player violence, sexual misconduct, discrimination, and systemic racism. 

Former agent Derold McIver told NBC News, “Only the NFL can get away with its discriminatory practices it has for so long with nothing happening, no one exposing it in detail — until now… He’s provided proof that will stand up in court.”  

Controversy

Race has been at the center of many NFL controversies throughout history, creating public disillusionment in an “us versus them” setting of the wealthy and overwhelmingly White owners vs. Black players, coaches, and personnel. 

Flores claims that little has changed in NFL hiring practices – evidenced by a single Black head coach currently in the league – based on his experiences interviewing for the Giants and Broncos positions. He also asserted that the NFL operates like a “plantation.” 

The lawsuit details Flores’ position: “The owners watch the games from atop NFL stadiums in their luxury boxes, while their majority-Black workforce put their bodies on the line every Sunday, taking vicious hits and suffering debilitating injuries to their bodies and their brains while the NFL and its owners reap billions of dollars.”

Inclusive Hiring Practices

Our society is in the midst of a cultural transformation. Across demographics, people are becoming more aware of unjust, exclusive systems and more attuned to diverse experiences and stories. These changes are revolutionizing society – and also work-life – for the better. 

And, there are real-world consequences. Every study reveals that organizations that are more diverse, equitable, and inclusive are also more profitable, innovative, and more desirable to both employees and customers.

For the NFL, there is a perception problem but also a real challenge with inclusive hiring practices. Helping 100 clients navigate these new experiences, The Diversity Movement urges the NFL to reexamine its hiring regulations, revise its current standards, and implement new inclusive practices that will address players’ (and the public’s) concerns.

“Business leaders and managers face challenges navigating the world we now live in, but they also know that diversity, equity, and inclusion are vital in recruiting, retention, and strengthening organizational culture,” said Donald Thompson, chief executive officer and co-founder, The Diversity Movement. “The move toward inclusive hiring is a first step toward more just and equitable practices, but the effort must have league-wide acceptance to overcome the longstanding challenges.” 

The NFL is Not Unique

Even organizations that understand the benefits of company-wide DEI often cannot cultivate a diverse workforce because of hidden, inherited, and unconscious biases within their application, recruitment, and hiring processes. Finding the best candidate for any job requires an intentionally inclusive recruiting process in order to mitigate our personal biases and identify any prejudice or favoritism that might be hiding in our existing systems. 

Resources for Inclusive Hiring

As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you need help with your inclusive hiring and other DEI initiatives.

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