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An examination of The Rooney Rule

The Rooney Rule is a rule, a concept, and a tool that gets as much widespread reaction from fans as there is in sports. Granted, other people care about it as well, but since this is Ed the Sports Fan, this will be looked at through the eyes of a fan.

The rule has been instituted since 2003 now, and it seems like this year, it has been scrutinized more than ever. There is a recent example people point to where some people felt the rule went wrong, and while the rule could use some revising, it is still something that is needed until there is more balance in the coaching ranks.

The definition of the rule is this:

The Rooney Rule, established in 2003, requires National Football League teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operations opportunities.

That much is clear, and if you don’t do it, then you face a heavy fine, and while these owners are billionaires, they don’t want to give away money just to be giving it away.

Some fans who are against the rule use the example of what happened in Dallas with the Cowboys. Jerry Jones interviewed Ray Sherman for the head coaching job, while he was the wide receivers coach, and not only did he not get the job, he wasn't retained as wide receivers coach when his contract ended at the end of the season as well. Jerry also interviewed Todd Bowles, the secondary coach of the Miami Dolphins.

Now, let’s be clear; Jerry Jones did exactly what the rule requires. He interviewed a minority candidate, and not only did he do that, he overachieved and interviewed two. Sure, Jason Garrett ended up getting the job, but anyone with a half a brain knew that job was his years ago. It would be an exercise in futility for supporters of the rule to get mad at Jerry and say he did the rule dirty, because he did exactly what the rule required him to do. All that said, it doesn’t happen like this all the time, so people who use this instance as proof that the rule isn’t needed should try harder.

Part of the issue I think people have with the rule is they make the rule personal. On top of that, there’s a level of naivety that comes along with where we are today as a society. The consensus is “hire the best person for the job.” That is the part that pretty much everyone agrees on. This is 2011, and my generation is more tolerant, dare say accepting, of differences between people of color than ever (differences between gender is another story), and as time passes, that will continue to be the case.

However, was it the case in the generation before us? If a person says it is, then they’re not going to listen to an argument for the rule, because then it’s a case where they’ve been in La-La Land all their life. The Rooney Rule is needed to change an attitude; a structure; an institution. If things were balanced before, then there would be no need for a rule now.

See, at one time, it was perfectly normal to have no minority coaches. It was normal to see no people of color or women (don’t get it twisted; women are a minority, too) in positions of coaching and management in the NFL. So while it sounds good to say “hire the best person for the job,” you have to have tools in place to change the process of how things are done, and just for the hell of it, let's say there is no Rooney Rule. If it's done away with now, can we honestly trust that the powers-that-be, the ones that have done it the opposite way for years, will strive to open up the interview pool on their own?

The rule puts minorities in the coaching network. It doesn’t say “give a minority a job;” it merely gives a minority the opportunity to interview, and if there's something we know about the way coaching works is once you're in the network, you're IN THE NETWORK. How does that explain the number of re-tread coaches we see all the time?

Is the Rooney Rule perfect? Of course it isn’t, but for me to say we don’t need something in place to fix the imbalance would be irresponsible, especially knowing how things once were, and how things still are without proper tools in place to balance out the playing field.

Be easy.
-K. Masenda

P.S. As a reminder, checkout the livest sports talk (and hopefully on the radio soon) show around, "The Unsportsmanlike Conduct Show" as we are live Wednesday's at 9pm Eastern at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edthesportsfan! Download our podcasts if you missed the live show as well!


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