ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) During a time in which player activism in the NFL has become a polarizing issue, the league continues to receive high grades for racial hiring practices in a diversity report that also finds that gender hiring has slightly dipped.
The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport released its annual racial and gender report card Wednesday, giving the NFL its eighth straight A for its racial hiring – primarily on the strength of incremental increases in coaches and general managers of color. The league received just a C for gender hiring, and an overall B grade for race and gender hiring.
The NFL is engulfed in a controversy involving some of its players – the league is comprised of mostly African-American players – and their actions during the playing of the national anthem. Some players have chosen to kneel to bring attention to what they believe are social injustices being directed at African-Americans and other minorities.
Some fans, and President Trump, have deemed their actions as disrespecting the flag and the country’s military men and women.
”I think with the kind of player activism that is going on that it’s going to increase attention to these numbers and I think it will get even better in the future,” said report card author Dr. Richard Lapchick. ”I think it was getting better anyways but I think that is going to add to it.”
This year the NFL matched its all-time high of eight head coaches of color with the addition of Vance Joseph in Denver and the Los Angeles Chargers Anthony Lynn. The last time the NFL had eight coaches of color prior to the 2017 was in 2011.
But Laphick does see a concern because this year there was slight decline at the coordinator level, which is seen as pipeline to head coaching positions in the NFL. There are just 13 men of color holding coordinator titles on the 32 NFL teams, which is a slight drop from 14 coordinators in 2016.
The NFL applies its Rooney Rule, a mandate that minorities must be interviewed for any vacant head coaching position, to expose more coaches of color.
Still, Lapchick is still bothered by the lack of progress at the coordinator level. The percentage of assistant coaches of color also dipped slightly from 31.9 percent a year ago to 31.4 percent in 2017.
”I think the Rooney Rule is definitely a plus, but it’s not a guarantee so there has to be other things in place like looking out for how to build that pipeline,” he said.
In addition to an increase in head coaches, the NFL also went from having five men with the general manager/principal in charge title to six this year.
But there also is still a concern that women are not making more strides in decision-making roles, particularly at the team level. The NFL saw its gender score drop from 76 percent in 2016 to 74 percent this year. But women in management in the league office jumped from 31.6 percent of the staff make up to 35.4 percent in 2017, which is the highest in the report card history.
In the NFL offices, the number of women at or over the vice president level went from 35 to 45 in 2017. The NFL scored a C+ in gender hiring a year ago but went from 76 percent to 74 percent primarily a change in the standards for grades.
But at the team level, women in senior administrative positions is at 20 percent this year, which is a full percent drop from 2016.
”The league office has made significant strides in promoting and hiring women in senior VP positions over the last three years,” Lapchick said. ”I think they are setting an example for the teams. We hope they will take their que from the leagues at that this point.”
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