Steelers Owner Art Rooney II: “We Have a lot of Work to do” on Rooney Rule

Donnie Druin

First created in 2003, the "Rooney Rule" (named after former Steelers owner Dan Rooney, who served as chairman of the NFL's diversity committee) was created to help ensure minority candidates received equal opportunities when applying for vacant coaching positions/other front office openings. Fast forward to 2020, where many feel the rule has had little effect on the process.

Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II shares the same sentiment.

"I think where we are right now is not where we want to be, not where we need to be" Rooney told NFL Network's Steve Wyche in an interview on Tuesday night. 

The interview came a day after the Fritz Pollard Alliance slammed the league for the lack of African-American head coaches in the league, stating "In 100 years of professional football, the NFL has moved from Fritz Pollard as its first African-American Head Coach in 1921 to four Head Coaches of color in 2020. The League has only one African-American General Manager. There are no African-American club presidents.”

One of those four, of course, is Pittsburgh's very own Mike Tomlin. Tomlin, who has been at the helm since 2007, stands alongside Ron Rivera, Anthony Lynn and Brian Flores as the only men of color in their current position. 

Discussion of the Rooney Rule resurfaced after Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator  Eric Bieniemy failed to secure a head coaching position despite leading one of the league's most-potent offenses with the Chiefs for two consecutive seasons. 

Questions also arose in regards to the rule following the hire of current Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, where the Raiders were investigated (and later found compliant) for not properly following the Rooney Rule despite interviewing two minority candidates, then tight end position coach Bobby Johnson and USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin. 

In 2018, the league modified the rule by ensuring teams interview at least one diverse candidate from the Career Development Advisory Panel list or a "diverse candidate not currently employed by the club". Rooney acknowledged a slight increase in minority hires when the rule was officially instated, yet the numbers have dipped to the original baseline the league started with when the rule was first installed. 

"If we changed that rule last year, obviously we have to look at what we can do differently now" said Rooney. Since it's implementation, the Rooney Rule has assisted roughly 14 coaches of minority backgrounds in their hiring, 19 including interim positions. However, Rooney and majority of the league believe those numbers are still too low.

"We have about one-third of the coaches in the National Football League are from the minority communities. That's really not a bad pipeline. And so, the question is, why aren't more of those people getting interviews? Why aren't more of those people advancing through the process? Like I said, there are a lot of pieces to it that we have to look at. We have a lot of work to do that."

NFL owners are currently scheduled to meet in Palm Beach, Florida on March 29. 

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