Seahawks’ Coaching-Hire Sparks More Talk on Rooney Rule

January 13, 2010
The Seattle Seahawks swift hiring of USC's Pete Carroll and its apparent short-shrift of the NFL's Rooney Rule, which is intended to diversify the League's head-coaching ranks, may actually work to strengthen the rule, writes Johnette Howard for ESPN.com. The Seattle Seahawks apparently had settled on Carroll and gave a cursory interview to the Viking's Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier (right).

Howard notes that the Rooney Rule adopted by the NFL in 2002 after pressure from prominent attorneys, the late Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., civil rights attorney Cyrus Mehri, and labor economist Dr. Janice Madden, has continued to be bolstered by outside pressure. (Including an Issue Brief released by ACS.)

Howard writes:

A watchdog group, the Fritz Pollard Alliance [for which Mehri serves as counsel], now monitors how well teams comply, along with the NFL. The same group - buttressed by a persuasive argument that attorney Douglas Proxmire published in a December 2008 paper for the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy - succeeded just months ago in getting the NFL to extend the Rooney Rule to hiring of general managers and other front-office personnel.

The Seahawks case should be another pivot point. More pressure needs to be exerted on [NFL commissioner] Goodell now.

In his ACS Issue Brief, "Coaching Diversity: The Rooney Rule, Its Application and Ideas for Expansion," Proxmire noted the 2002 report co-authored by Cochran, Mehri and Madden, detailing the NFL's hiring and firing practices over the previous 15 seasons. Their report, Proxmire wrote led "to an obvious, but disconcerting conclusion: despite an overall better record than their white counterparts, black coaches had a difficult time getting hired, and once hired, black head coaches were fired before their white counterparts." Proxmire also urged the NFL to strengthen the Rooney Rule by extending it to cover front-office vacancies. Last summer, Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the League would indeed require NFL teams to interview more minority candidates for front-office openings.