The NFL has instituted some policy changes to the Rooney Rule designed to further enhance diversity, equity and inclusion in hiring practices.
The rule has been expanded to require teams to interview at least two external minority candidates for general manager/executive of football operations positions, and all coordinator roles. Beforehand, the requirement was to interview one minority from outside a team for openings in those positions.
Openings for head coaches already fell under such requirements.
NFL clubs now must conduct an in-person interview for at least one external minority candidate for any head coach or general manager opening. All coordinator and assistant general manager candidates can be interviewed virtually, but in-person interviews are being encouraged.
“League and club leadership must reflect America’s diversity,” Jonathan Beane, the NFL’s senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer, and Fritz Pollard Alliance Executive Director Rod Graves said in a statement.
“We’ve been discussing these improvements jointly for months because they will move the game and business of football toward inclusivity — and make league and club workplaces welcoming for everyone.
“There is still much more work to do to ensure that the outstanding candidate pipeline, which is as strong as it’s ever been, finds opportunities consistent with their immense talent. The policies announced ... are another important step toward those goals.”
Beane stresses the importance of ensuring the pipeline is strong with minority coaches and overall.
“Ensuring everyone gets an opportunity, a look,” he says. “When you have a diverse slate and have more than one minority or diverse candidate ... the chance of a candidate being interviewed who is diverse goes up exponentially. Maximize the opportunities, and we also wanted to make sure there wasn’t a case where there was only one candidate who is diverse who is being interviewed. Research shows a lot of times there could be bias in the opportunity for that person to get hired and have a role.”
Beane emphasized the importance of feedback after such interviews, regardless who the candidate is.
“One of the things the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee recommended and enacted is on the issue of feedback,” he explains. “We’re not mandating feedback, but strongly encouraging all clubs to do that. Someone who is interviewed for a role but doesn’t get it, it is important for them to get that feedback to have for the next opportunity they get.”
The mechanisms for interviewing head coaching candidates also have been changed. Teams will be allowed to interview for such a position during the final two weeks of the regular season with the consent of the employer club — as long as the head coaching job is vacant. Those interviews can be done virtually.
Of course, there are no restrictions for candidates not employed by any NFL teams.
The NFL also is creating additional education and training sessions on sexual harassment, discrimination and diversity, equity and inclusion in the wake of the investigation into workplace improprieties with the Washington Football Team.
“We have to stay committed to having a safe and welcoming environment for everyone,” Beane says. “We have to stay committed to doing active and continual training. ... This is not something we will ever not have a lack of urgency on.
“The latest things have brought to light the importance of this work, and this is the opportunity for the NFL to really step up and be the example. We are not always going to be perfect, but we will strive to be, and we will always have a plan to move forward.
“We must stay focused, being committed to our communities, to all people, to show football really is for everyone. When someone walks into our offices they have to feel that sense of belonging. When we don’t provide that, that is when we have to continue to have this type of commitment.”