Coaching Discrimination in the NFL

By Nate Hiles

Throughout the semester there was one systemic injustice that stood out to me and it was one that I thought was pretty fascinating. This injustice came in the world of sports and particularity in the NFL. The NFL has had issues throughout the years of providing minorities opportunities in which they will hold a position of power, this could be ownership opportunities, GM jobs but mostly this comes in the form of Head Coaching opportunities in the NFL. The NFL has 32 franchises, and only 5 of those franchises have a minority head coach leading their franchise, that’s just 15% of NFL teams. The NFL has attempted to implement rules over the years that would put a band-aid on this issue and possibly lead to more minorities in leadership roles but it has for the most part turned into a disgrace of the rule. The Rooney Rule is a rule where an NFL team with an open coaching position must first interview a minority individual before they can officially name a new coach, which is a great rule/idea on paper, but it has been handled poorly. The current state of the rule is that NFL teams will bring in a minority individual at the start of their coaching search so they can hire their candidate whenever they choose to do so, but they almost never truly consider the minority interviewee for the position. Eric Bieniemy is the last minority in the NFL to unfortunately have to face this reality. Eric Bieniemy is the Offensive Coordinator for the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs, and has been the leader of the best offense in the NFL for the last two seasons. But, for SOME reason he has been unable to land a head coaching position and has had to watch less qualified individuals land the positions in which he is coveting. I think this is a clear example of an systemic injustice because it is a situation where the NFL and their leaders are not allowing minorities the same opportunities of advancement that they’re providing to non-minorities. In the NFL minorities basically have no voice and no face when it comes to positions of power. Yes, the NFL is flooded with minorities who actually participate on the field, but when it comes to positions of power within the NFL minorities have virtually no voice, and no options.

If I had to compare Eric Bieniemy’s situation to content from our class I’d probably have to compare it Hegel and the Master-Slave dialectic. Eric Bieniemy’s is one of the leaders of the Kansas City Chiefs and for the Chiefs he does hold a position of power, to a certain extent. But, while he does have this position of power, and the end of the day he still is at the will of individuals who are far more powerful than he is, and he must do what they say. He is holding a position of power, while still being a minority and having to be somewhat of an inferior at the same time.



2 thoughts on “Coaching Discrimination in the NFL

  1. Hey Nate,
    I really enjoyed reading your entry. There is an interesting discrepancy in that most NFL players are African American whereas most coaches are of non-minorities. As a non-minority, I am not bothered by being underrepresented when it comes to NFL players. In general, I advocate for qualifications, skills, and production to be the only factors considered in hiring and promotions. To be fair, my previous sentence has shortcomings as many minorities are subject to accumulated disadvantages throughout American history. If minority coaches are truly more qualified and are not hired due to their ethnicity, gender, etc, that is of course wrong. This is tough because it is hard to objectify what makes a candidate qualified within the context of each position. Truthfully, I’m not sure where I fall on this particular issue, and I would have to further educate myself on the topic to hold a position. Your argument was convincing, and I learned a few things I wasn’t aware of. Thanks for your post!
    Josh Pelland

  2. Nate,

    As a fan of the NFL I can relate strongly to what you are writing about. It has been shocking over the years how the front offices throughout the league show this bias without explicitly saying so. It has become more and more obvious as time has gone on that there is a certain flawed “standard” for positions of power in front offices. Sadly I believe this to be true due to the owners being from older generations. The vast majority of team owners have been around the league for quite some time and I believe this bias may be a result of some form of ignorance toward the concept of minorities in positions of power in the football organization. This ignorance doesn’t just apply to the coaching positions. There have been numerous times in history in which a minority quarterback leaving college and entering the draft have been questioned about their potential to be a different position such as wide receiver. Examples of this include Warren Moon, who was inducted to the NFL Hall of Fame as a quarterback in 2006) and more recently Lamar Jackson, the 2019 NFL MVP winner.

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