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percent of the players were African American. This prompted civil rights lawyers
Cyrus Mehri and Johnnie Cochran, Jr., to commission an analysis of the
performance of NFL head coaches. It revealed that African American coaches, as
a group, outperformed white coaches but were consistently passed over for the
job. The result was the Rooney Rule, named after former Pittsburgh Steelers
owner Dan Rooney, which required that NFL teams interview at least one
candidate of color before hiring a new head coach.
“Since the rule was adopted,” reports Newkirk, “the percentage of black and
other coaches of color rose from 6 percent — or two coaches — to a high of 25
percent — or eight coaches — during a single season.” But the Rooney Rule’s
record is spotty at best. In early 2019, for example, seven of eight open head coach
openings were filled by white coaches. The lesson: Compliance may jump-start
D&I efforts, but it isn’t enough to power them over the long run.
“In the end, racial diversity will not be ushered in by pledges, slogans, or
well-compensated czars,” concludes Newkirk. “Yes, change will require resources
and resolve, but no amount of money, no degree of effort, will succeed alongside
a willful negation of our shared humanity.” More than 50 years after the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 forbade job discrimination, a remedy continues to elude us. +
Theodore Kinni
is a contributing editor of
strategy+business. He also blogs
at Reading, Writing re: Management
and is @TedKinni on Twitter.

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