Veteran NFL coach Anthony Lynn appreciates the league policy that requires teams to interview minority candidates for their top jobs and he has even benefited from it. Like many of his peers, though, the assistant head coach for the San Francisco 49ers believes the policy has fallen short of its good intentions.
There were three non-white head coaches when the Rooney Rule went into effect in 2003, and today, there are five. Skepticism about NFL hiring practices has remained steady among minority job candidates, who see parallels to the challenges corporate America faces.
A racial discrimination lawsuit filed this month against the NFL by former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has magnified attention on the league's hiring practices.
Lynn said, “I really believe in the spirit of the Rooney Rule, but I just saw how people were abusing it and I didn’t want to be a part of that.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told teams recently that the league will look to improve policies meant to encourage the hiring of minorities, particularly as head coaches.
"We will reevaluate and examine all policies, guidelines and initiatives relating to diversity, equity and inclusion, including as they relate to gender," Goodell wrote in a memo to the league's 32 clubs. The commissioner added that the league's record on hiring minority coaches has been "unacceptable."
A lawsuit filed last week which alleges the National Football League has followed racist hiring practices has now shed light on allegations from multiple coaches that claim NFL team owners have offered incentives, or bonuses, to coaches to lose games.
Two teams and two coaches sit at the center of a related controversy.
Brian Flores, the former coach for the Miami Dolphins who was fired last month by the team, said in a lawsuit that he was offered $100,000 by owner Stephen Ross in 2019 for each loss he was able to complete, Reuters reported. Flores claimed in the recent filing that the offer was meant to help the Dolphins get a better draft pick in 2020.
Hue Jackson, the former coach for the Cleveland Browns, who was fired eight games into the 2018 season and lost all 16 games in 2017, said he was offered incentives to lose while he was the coach for the Browns, the Associated Press reported. According to Reuters, the NFL draft of college players gives the highest pick to teams with the worst records. When Jackson was a coach for the Browns, the team lost 36 of 40 games.
Legal experts say that if the allegations are determined to be true, possible class action lawsuits for hundreds of millions of dollars could be filed, or even criminal liability could be possible, as experts told Reuters.