So Mike Singletary has been named as the coach of the San Francisco 49ers. Jim Caldwell has fulfilled the chain of succession from Tony Dungy with the Indianapolis Colts. Perhaps in President-Elect Barack Obama, we’ve embraced the Rooney Rule on a national level and have turned the page on racism. Haven’t we?
The Rooney Rule, established in 2003, requires National Football League teams to interview minority candidates for a head coaching opportunity. The rule is named for Dan Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the chairman of the league’s diversity committee, and is often cited as an example of affirmative action.
Coach Tony Dungy joined Chicago Bear’s coach, Lovie Smith, in making Super Bowl history by being the first black coaches to lead their teams to the Super Bowl. One more barrier broken, another cultural advancement achieved – and another step toward this not being an issue. Forcing owners to interview minority candidates smacks of affirmative action to some. In fact, I’ve heard some quarters ask if the Rooney rule meant that the 49ers or the Colts had to interview a white candidate.
Ending ways/legacy of racism (and dare I mention, white privilege) puts race front and center of the discussion. If I’m a team owner, I’m going to resent being told who I have to hire … but I’m also probably not going to change if I’m not “forced” to do so. If there’s a Mike Shanahan or a Bill Cowher available, any interview I do when they are part of the mix is strictly a matter of me going through the motions and everyone will know it. So will that do any good? Well, at the very least, any minority candidate interviewed now hits other teams’ radar and they get practice interviewing.
It’s a little too soon to declare racism dead based on the fact that a couple black coaches got to the head coach position without much of an interview process. You can’t even argue that the Rooney Rule is no longer necessary. At best, we can see recent developments as another hopeful step.
Now if we can only get the NCAA to realize we have a racism problem …