The Rooney Rule Rundown

rooney ruleWhat is the Rooney Rule?

Just over 10 years ago, the Rooney Rule was implemented in the NFL. Since then it has been criticized, praised, probed for loopholes and used appropriately. It is mentioned frequently in discussions of head coaching vacancies. So what is it, exactly?

With “Black Monday” over and a number of NFL head coaching vacancies to be filled the sports media will be transfixed on these interview processes when it is not focusing on the playoffs and Super Bowl. With all that attention will come plenty of mentions of the league’s Rooney Rule. It was designed to improve diversity among the head coaching ranks in the NFL, and in many ways it has succeeded. In 2001, there where two black head coaches in the league. The Rooney Rule was implemented in 2003.

Below is a list of the league’s head coaches with minority backgrounds:

  • Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers.
  • Todd Bowles of the New York Jets.
  • Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals.
  • Jim Caldwell of the Detroit Lions.
  • Lovie Smith of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
  • Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Requirements of the Rooney Rule

What the Rooney Rule specifically requires is that teams with head coaching or senior executive vacancies interview at least one minority while attempting to fill the position. That means teams such as the Cleveland Browns, the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins will each have to interview at least one minority candidate, even if they decided who they intended to hire before the regular season even ended and the individual was white. They still must squeeze in an interview with a minority to satisfy the Rooney Rule. An eye-test will show that thus far, the Rooney Rule has proven effective – some in the tech industry have even touted the idea of adopting it.

If you have any questions about the Rooney Rule or the NFL hiring process speak with an experienced sports law attorney or NFL agent for more information.

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Anthony R. Caruso is a business transactional attorney in New York and New Jersey with experience in structuring, negotiation and completion of legal deals involving business, entrepreneurs, athletes and performers.

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