Documentary on African Americans in Pro Football to Explore the Rooney Rule

December 14, 2011

by Jeremy Leaming

A CBS program on the history of African Americans in the NFL will soon touch on the Rooney Rule, which requires teams with head coaching or general manager vacancies to interview one or more minority candidates.

The documentary, “Third and Long: The History of African-Americans in Pro Football 1946-1989,” will include an examination of the Rooney Rule in its second installment on Dec. 25, at 4 p.m., ET.

Cyrus Mehri, of Mehri & Skalet PLLC, will participate in that segment. Mehri & Skalet, and the late Johnnie Cochran Jr. helped spur implementation of the Rooney Rule. See here for more information about the program.

In an ACS Issue Brief, Douglas C. Proxmire, partner at Patton Boggs LLP, wrote that after the “adoption of the Rooney Rule in December 2002, the number of African-American head coaches increased from two in 2002 to an all-time high of seven in 2006, but the numbers have leveled off since 2006.” Proxmire, however, added that the Rule “has led to some progress for other NFL minority hiring practices. In the five years since the Rooney Rule has been implemented, the number of minority hires in the NFL head coaching, assistant coaching and front offices has increased.”

Mehri & Skalet, adds in a recent promotion of the forthcoming CBS episode that the Rooney Rule “has resulted in historic triumphs of diversity in the sport, including the hiring of Super Bowl-winning head coaches Tony Dungy and Mike Tomlin … and General Manager Jerry Reese of the Giants.”

In late September, the NFL also expanded its efforts to promote diversity by adopting a provision stating, in part, that there “will be no discrimination in any form against any player by the Management Council, and Club or by the NFLPA [NFL Players Association] because of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or activity or lack of activity on behalf of the NFLPA.”