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Arnold Ahlert / Nov. 19, 2020

The NFL's Diversity Double Standard

The league may be "woke," but that means it's not making good decisions.

Those who worship at the altar of Diversity Above All have something new to celebrate. On Tuesday, the “woke” team owners who run the NFL passed a series of initiatives aimed at getting teams to hire more minority coaches and executive candidates. Meritocracy? MIA.

The rules were passed after 10 months of discussion, and they include teams receiving third-round “compensatory” picks in each of the next two drafts that follow a minority staffer being hired away as head coach or general manager by another team, and third-round compensatory picks in the next three drafts if a team has people hired away into both roles in the same year. The rewards require the minority candidate to have been employed by the team for at least two years prior to moving, the move itself can’t be lateral, and employment must be continuous from one team to the next.

Cause for celebration? According to ESPN, multiple “people of color” sources are less than enthused. They don’t like the idea that they weren’t consulted about the plan, that it passed quickly without advanced notice, and that other sources were speaking on their behalf about the plan without talking to them first. “This will affect all of us, and we wanted to be involved in the process,” one source stated. “We don’t know whether it’s lip service or real, and we just want to be judged on our own merits.”

Merits? Genuine meritocracy requires no rewards or initiatives based solely on race, ethnicity, or gender (albeit, in sports, gender matters immensely). In fact, decent Americans understand that diversity and meritocracy are mutually exclusive concepts. However, the progressive mindset that dominates far too many institutions presumes our nation is “systemically” racist and that bigotry is the default position of white Americans who are “implicitly biased” and inherently “privileged.”

Ironically, in their effort to promote diversity, the owners have demonstrated a couple of realities that attend genuine bigots. First, they have essentially admitted that, in the executives suites of the NFL, the “soft bigotry of low expectations” remains alive and well in that they believe minorities are incapable of achieving success without compensatory incentives. Second, and even more damning, is the apparent paternalism: The owners believe their “benevolence” requires no input whatsoever from the recipients, who should simply express their gratitude for the owners’ “enlightened” thinking.

One individual who spoke to ESPN also questioned the gamesmanship that could attend this plan, wondering if teams in the same division would let coaches or other staffers go if it meant rival teams getting two or three extra third-round picks. “It’s counterintuitive,” one source said. “They’re rewarding you for doing something that you should have been doing already.”

It has been done already. In 2003, the NFL adopted the Rooney Rule. It required teams to interview ethnic-minority candidates for head-coaching positions and senior football operation jobs. In 2009, it was expanded to include general manager and equivalent front-office positions. In 2018, additional mandates were added, requiring teams to look outside of their organizations and interview at least two candidates for any vacant head-coaching job and at least one minority candidate from outside their organizations when hiring offensive, defensive, or special-teams coordinators. In addition, teams and the league office are required to interview minorities and/or female applicants for other specific positions as well.

Nonetheless, according to Troy Vincent, a black American who is the NFL’s executive vice president of football, these changes were insufficient. Last May, Vincent asserted that promises to become more diverse were akin to “the same words that they told people in my community in the fifties, the forties, about integration of school systems, housing — but not giving us any solutions.”

Football Morning in America columnist Peter King agreed, lamenting, “What’s happening in the NFL is not right: 70 percent minority players, 13 percent minority head coaches, 6 percent minority general managers, 3 percent minority owners. What is wrong with this picture? You’re good enough to play, but not to coach, manage or own.”

For anyone but dedicated quota-mongers, what’s “wrong with this picture” should be obvious: The hiring of those who actually play pro football is the essence of meritocracy. Only the most talented and ambitious football players in the entire nation get a shot at playing for an NFL team, and those who fail to make the grade are either cut immediately or eventually lose their jobs to a superior player. On the playing field, race and ethnicity are entirely irrelevant. Moreover, exactly none of the same people who insist that every other facet of NFL hiring be viewed through an affirmative action prism would have it any other way.

Why not? While King bemoans the low percentage of minority coaches, GMs, and owners relative to minority players, why shouldn’t both ends of the equation be subject to the same considerations? If diversity is as important as its defenders claim it to be, why not increase the ostensibly under-represented number of minority and gender hires on the operations side of the game, and decrease the over-representation of minorities on the playing field?

Doesn’t “fairness” demand such consistency? Shouldn’t the same concept of “disparate impact” that allows legal challenges to employment or practices that are nondiscriminatory on their face, but have a disproportionately negative effect on members of legally protected groups, be implemented off and on the field?

Unprotected whites would still be left to fend for themselves, but wouldn’t an NFL roster “reimagined” with currently under-represented ethnicities, races, and genders (fluid and otherwise) — perhaps all in direct proportion to their representation of the general populations in the cities where their respective teams play — be the right way to go?

The hypocrisy is rank, but no one does “more equal” better than progressives who believe equality of outcome can be mandated, even as particular aspects of that mandate can be ignored when it doesn’t suit their purposes. Thus, while one side of football has and will be subject to all sorts of machinations in service to quotas, the other side will remain wholly meritocratic — because progressives know there’s no money to be made in fielding football teams that “look like America.”

With any luck, maybe there will be far less money made by people who insist sports must be wholly politicized. Maybe “get woke, go broke” will be real and enduring. If so, it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of social justice warriors — who are neither social nor just.

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