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NFL Expands Rooney Rule to Include Women, Required Hiring of One Minority Assistant

The NFL announced new changes to the Rooney Rule on Monday as team owners convened in Florida for the annual league meeting.

The league expanded the rule to include women as part of the external minority candidate interview pool. Established in 2003, the Rooney Rule now stipulates that all 32 clubs must interview at least two women and/or persons of color when seeking to fill prominent positions in order to comply with the policy.

The revised Rooney Rule will also eliminate Zoom interviews and require teams to hold in-person interviews with minorities.

The NFL believes the addition of women to the policy will “encourage the further identification and development of women candidates and the ability to provide them additional opportunity to interview for open positions,” according to CNBC.

In October, the NFL changed the minimum requirement for external minority candidates from one to two for all general manager/executive of football operations positions, and coordinator openings.

In addition, the league announced Monday all teams will be required to employ either a women or person of color to serve as an offensive assistant, per a statement obtained by United Press International. The coach will receive a one-year contract and “work closely with the head coach and offensive staff to gain experience.” Clubs will be reimbursed for the hire via a league-wide fund that will contribute toward the coach’s salary for up to two years.

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The NFL offered the following explanation for the change: “In recent years, head coaches have predominantly had offensive backgrounds. We believe this resolution will assist greatly in continuing to source and identify diverse candidates earlier in their career, providing pipeline depth and furthering developing the diverse offensive pipeline.”

As the league continues to explore ways to improve diversity, all 32 team owners took the effort a step further by issuing a joint statement voicing their support for an increase in diversity among ownership. 

“The NFL member clubs support the important goal of increasing diversity among ownership,” it said. “Accordingly, when evaluating a prospective ownership group of a member club pursuant to League policies, the membership will regard it as a positive and meaningful factor if the group includes diverse individuals who would have a significant equity stake in and involvement with the club, including serving as the controlling owner of the club.”

The Rooney Rule has been the subject of much debate in recent years due to the lack of an increase in minority hires to prominent positions around the league. As it stands, there are only five minority head coaches league-wide.

Former Dolphins coach and current Steelers assistant Brian Flores amplified the issues earlier this year when he filed a lawsuit against the NFL alleging racist hiring practices. In February, commissioner Roger Goodell admitted the NFL has fallen short “by a lot” on hiring Black and minority candidates.

Earlier Monday, Goodell and the league office announced the creation of a new “Diversity Advisory Committee” in response to Flores’s lawsuit. The group’s focus will be to “evaluate league and club diversity, equity and inclusion strategies and initiatives” before providing “comprehensive recommendations to league office and club ownership for consideration.”

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