Insight News

Feb 13th

Blacks and Super Bowl XLIV

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The National Football League’s showcase event will draw an audience numbering in the millions and money in the billions for the NFL and team owners.  While African American fans root, bet and grouse about the game and competing teams, we’d be remiss not to ask the NFL, and its member teams, “Are NFL hiring and retention practices acts of equal and equitable opportunities?”

The bloom is off the rose in the “hunt” for Black coaches.  Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Caldwell is the fourth African-American to stalk the sidelines in a Super Bowl.  But, even with that progress does the league still fall short in on-field and front-office practices?  Despite what you see on the field – seven times out of 10 it is an African American player – the NFL is a good “old boy network” of rich White men.  The NFL exemplifies the difference between the nouveau riche and real wealth.  It is run by  men who regularly write checks in the millions.  The National Football League is big business .

The 32 teams have millions of fans that generate billions of dollars for the NFL from merchandise, TV contracts, advertising and ticket sales.  Billions of dollars are generated in the teams’ participation in an annual 17-week competition and culminating in the final annual competition between the National and American Conferences: the Super Bowl, America’s biggest entertainment event.

On the field, a few stars like Colts quarterback Payton Manning makes $14 million a year and play multiple seasons; but the average NFL player plays 3 years, makes $770,000 a year, and a career average of $2.3 million.  Playing in the NFL has made many rich, but within five years after retiring most have lost all the money he made.

Upstairs, in NFL owners’ boxes are billionaire owners such as: Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Seattle Seahawks - net worth of $16.8 billion.  Others include Malcolm Glazer, Tampa Bay Bucs, $2.5 billion; Wayne Huizenga, Miami Dolphins, $2.5 billion; Cleveland Browns, Randolph Lerner, $1.6 billion; Robert McNair, Houston Texans, $1.5 billion; Arthur Blank, Atlanta Falcons, $1.5 billion; Dallas Cowboys’ owner, Jerry Jones, $1.3 billion; Robert Kraft, New England Patriots, $1.4 billion; Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, $1.3 billion; and Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has a net worth of  $1 billion.

In 2002, attorneys Cyrus Mehri and the late Johnnie Cochran accused NFL of denying Black coaches a fair chance to compete for head coaching jobs.  That led to establishment of the "Rooney Rule," which requires that each team interview at least one minority candidate prior to filling a head coach position.

Two NFL owners recently ran a rook on the Rooney Rule.  The Redskins recently hired Mike Shanahan as their new head coach and give him a 5-year, $35 million contract. The Redskins also interviewed their secondary coach, Jerry Gray, an African American, for the job.  The Seahawks tapped famed USC coach Pete Carroll for five years for $35 million.  But, Seahawks management first flew to Minneapolis to interview Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, an African American, for the job.

During the 2009 season, seven of the league's 32 head coaches – Mike Tomlin at Pittsburgh, Marvin Lewis at Cincinnati, Mike Singletary in San Francisco, Perry Fewell at Buffalo, Lovie Smith at Chicago, Raheem Morris at Tampa Bay and Jim Caldwell were African American.  But, it is difficult to square the Rooney Rule with reality. Leslie Frazier - reportedly a "candidate" for seven NFL head coaching jobs over past years, is simply being interviewed multiple times just to comply with the rule.  The Redskins were in such a lather over how to comply with the rule that team officials interviewed Gray even before former head coach Jim Zorn was fired - ostensibly to clear the path for Shanahan.

Bottom line is that neither Frazier nor Gray had a chance of head coaching jobs at Seattle or Washington.  Snyder and Allen are at the top of their game; so if Shanahan and Carroll make them more money and build their legacies as NFL owners, ain’t that just “the boyz doin’ business as usual.

(William Reed –

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