SOCIAL DISTANCING AT HOME – For a league the size and stature of the NFL, sometimes they are just plain stupid.
You have uneven consequences of punishment for some players. The officiating fiasco of a few years ago was embarrassing, highlighted by the “Fail Mary” play in a Seattle-Green Bay game on national TV. Hiring commissioners to be nothing more than highly compensated “yes men” for the owners is a terrible optic.
Now we have this new edict handed down on Friday by the league. It will reward the draft position by teams by up to sixteen draft slots if they hire a black general manager or black head or assistant coach. They would need to enter their third year on the job for a team to move up the draft board.
Okay, whites, Hispanics, Native Americans, Eastern Asians, Middle Easterners, Hindustanis, let’s all stand up and cheer. The NFL is now finally on its way to becoming a racially balanced upper echelon league. The NFL couldn’t do it the right way, so let’s come up with this new method of righting years of wrong with a new policy that is simply reverse racism. Bravo, NFL.
Major League Baseball is vilified for its long refusal to allow black players to play at the major league level. Jackie Robinson bravely stepped in and broke the color barrier in 1947. The Red Sox became the last team to integrate, bringing aboard Elijah “Pumpsie” Green in 1959. For those of you who don’t study Red Sox history, the Sox could have had both Robinson and Willie Mays but refused both. There is a reason that Yawkey Way was renamed to its original name, Jersey Street.
Despite the problems Bill Russell had living in Boston, the Celtics actually broke two color barriers. In 1950, they drafted Chuck Cooper out of Duquesne, the first black player in NBA history. And in 1965, the Celtics became the first NBA team to put an all-black team on the floor at the same time. Russell, who was racially taunted and harassed with great frequency during his illustrious career in Boston, was one of those five black players.
The NFL was the last league to come around in these areas. It was the AFL, not the NFL, which started making black players more prominent in the makeup of their teams. Moving the 1965 AFL Pro Bowl to Houston after black players were treated poorly in New Orleans was a major moment in civil rights history that many fans don’t know about. But Willie Lanier of the Kansas City Chiefs became the first black middle linebacker in pro football history in the late 1960s. Doug Williams was the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl (and one of only two), beating Denver in Super Bowl XXII. Otherwise, the leadership positions on both offense and defense used to be the sole domain of the white guy.
Along the way, the NFL has been trying and trying to get more minority hires in the league. And the teams continue to feature white hires. MLB had its first manager in 1975, as Frank Robinson was player/manager of the Cleveland Indians. Russell, the NBA’s first black head coach, was also a player/coach for his final three years in Boston, in two of which the Celtics won titles. Ironically, the NFL has both leagues beat by a mile on this, as Fritz Pollard was a player/head coach of the Akron Pros in 1921, some 99 years ago. Tony Dungy, now an NBC commentator, was the first black head coach to win a Super Bowl, as his Colts won Super Bowl XLI in a downpour in Miami against Chicago.
So if the NFL has a 54-year edge on MLB and a 45-year lead on the NBA in hiring a black head coach, why all the hubbub over minority hirings? Ask Steeler fans what they think of minority hiring. Black coaches have had their chances. Perhaps the best defensive coordinator in Patriot history is Romeo Crennel. Ivan Fears continues to be a solid fixture as Patriot running backs coach. Brian “Malcolm, go!” Flores went from defensive coordinator to Miami head coach. And these are just guys with Patriot connections.
But to entice teams to hire minority, or rather, more black coaches and GMs by improving their draft position is reverse racism. It is going against the basic rule of hiring, albeit in the wrong direction: Hire the best person available based on their ability, not the color of their skin. The best guy gets the job, period.
To do this will likely deny a more qualified white person, a more qualified Hispanic, a more qualified Hindu, and so on. This is just plain wrong. If a black man is the right man for the job, he should get the job. If Bill Belichick were of another race, he should still be the GOAT and the Patriots still hire him as head coach 20 years ago.
A black man who is denied a coaching or a GM job because a team gave it to a white man because a team likes whites over blacks “just because”, or if they think whites are inherently smarter than blacks, is (still) a victim of racism. Conversely, a white man who is denied a coaching or a GM job because a team gave it to a black man to move up ten draft slots is also a victim of racism. In both cases, the right man for the job most likely isn’t getting the job, and that is racially motivated, not employment motivated. This new hiring practice by the NFL won’t solve the problem. It will only cause more instances of the right man not getting the job.
Of course, the various NFL teams will continue to shoot themselves in the foot by ignoring better qualified candidates and hiring lesser qualified white men because there may be cases where, for whatever reason, they might be more comfortable with them. Then enough people start complaining, and the league then comes up with the wrong solution. The question then becomes “What is the right solution?”
And that’s a hard question to answer. But you don’t fix racism with more racism. It may just have to happen by accident. You will have to have a few owners with the wisdom of Joe Gibbs and the foresight of Hank Stram to help uncover the Mike Tomlins and Tony Dungys. The only problem here is that both Tomlin and Dungy have each won one Vince. They have nothing to prove. Black men can succeed as coaches because it has already been done. As for GMs, ask Steve Bisciotti if he likes the job Ozzie Newsome did as Ravens’ GM, and if he thinks black men can make draft picks (Ray Lewis, Ed Reed) and build a team the right way.
The right man gets the job. Or, if you ask the Cardinals, the right woman. Bravo, Jennifer Welter.
Listen to Dr. King. Content of character, not color of skin. Hire the right person, folks.
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