The Rooney Rule is a National Football League policy that requires league teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. It is sometimes cited as an example of affirmative action, though there is no quota or preference given to minorities in the hiring of candidates. It was established in 2003, and variations of the rule are now in place in other industries.
History and origin
The rule is named after Dan Rooney, the former owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and former chairman of the league's diversity committee.
It was created as a reaction to the 2002 firings of head coaches Tony Dungy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dennis Green of the Minnesota Vikings, at a time when Dungy had a winning record and Green had just had his first losing season in ten years. Shortly afterwards, U.S. civil rights attorneys Cyrus Mehri and Johnnie Cochran released a study showing that black head coaches, despite winning a higher percentage of games, were less likely to be hired and more likely to be fired than their white counterparts. Former NFL players Kellen Winslow and John Wooten then put together a self-described “affinity group” of minority scouts, coaches, and front-office personnel, to advocate for the rule's creation.
Its purpose was to ensure that minority coaches, especially African Americans, would be considered for high-level coaching positions. Until 1979, when Art Shell was hired by the Raiders, Fritz Pollard was the only minority head coach in NFL history (which was during the league's early years in the 1920s) and by the time the rule was implemented, only Tom Flores, Shell, Dennis Green, Ray Rhodes, Tony Dungy, and Herman Edwards had ever held head coaching jobs (only Dungy and Edwards were actively head coaching at the time of the rule's implementation, though Shell and Green would later return to head coaching). Dungy in particular had struggled for years before getting a head coaching job; he was often promoted as a head coaching candidate by Chuck Noll when Dungy was an assistant under Noll in the 1980s with the Steelers, but he would not become a head coach until 1996 when he took over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
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