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Racial Issues Within the NFL

Race has always played a part in who is allowed to play and coach sports, particularly on the professional level. Earlier this year Bryan Flores, an African American coach in the NFL filed a lawsuit against the league with allegations of racism in hiring practices. Along with the allegations of racism, he alleged that Dolphins owners offered him money to lose games during the 2019 season in order to give them a more favorable draft position. Other issues outlined in the lawsuit include unfair interview practices. The NFL is now requiring any opening in the head coach or general manager position to interview at least one minority candidate.


Recently, two new coaches joined the lawsuit. Steve Wilks, former Cardinals coach for the 2018 season, and Ray Horton who is a coach for the Browns. Wilks was the head coach for the Arizona Cardinals in the 2018 season and was promptly fired at the end of the season. Wilks’ lawyer claims he was given “no meaningful chance to succeed” by the organization. In the same fashion Horton, who was an offensive coordinator for the Panther in 2015, was passed up for the head coach job after his lawyers claim he was given a,” Completely sham interview done only to comply with the Rooney Rule and to demonstrate an appearance of equal opportunity…”This is a trend that seems to keep coming up in the NFL. Teams looking for coaches or other high-level positions are not seriously considering those minority candidates. These coaches claim they are just being given interviews to abide by the rule.


The lawsuit from Flores against the NFL and three specific teams, The Broncos, Dolphins, and Giants was filed in early February in Manhattan Federal Court. It was only earlier in April that the two other NFL coaches, Ray Horton and Steve Wilks, joined the suit. The NFL and specific teams have thus far defended their decisions. The Cardinals made this statement after their 2018 season. “The decisions we made after the 2018 season were very difficult ones. But as we said at the time, they were entirely driven by what was in the best interests of our organization and necessary for team improvement. We are confident that the facts reflect that and demonstrate that these allegations are untrue."


Overall, these allegations are a wider representation of how race affects decisions in the NFL and in professional sports generally. In a league where 71% of the players are people of color many are questioning why the league currently has only two Black Head Coaches. Professional sports is generally a more progressive place than most but clearly has more to do.


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