It’s one thing when former NFL coaches accuse team owners of racist hiring practices, but it’s even more disturbing when those coaches claim they were paid by owners to lose games to improve their team’s position in the NFL draft.
For years, league officials and owners have been hiding behind the “Rooney Rule,” which requires teams to interview minority candidates for open general manager, coach and coordinator positions. But it clearly hasn’t worked. Since the NFL implemented the rule in 2003, 27 of 127 head coaching jobs have gone to minorities, according to the Associated Press. This year, white men have filled the first four of nine head coaching jobs.
The NFL is no different than any other organization. Businesses usually come to some type of understanding or verbal agreement with the person they want to hire and then go through “fake interviews” with minorities.
It’s done all over corporate America. I’ve been a token interview myself in the media business when I first started out nearly 40 years ago, and the same practices still exist. Minorities must continue to fight, but the playing field will never be even. That doesn’t mean things can’t get better.
But when Black coaches like Hue Jackson and Brian Flores claim they were paid to lose games, it really eats at the integrity of the game. In his lawsuit filed Tuesday against the NFL over alleged racist hiring practices, Flores claimed Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered him as much as $100,000 for each loss in 2019. Jackson, who went 3-36-1 in three seasons as coach of the Cleveland Browns, later suggested on Twitter that owner Jimmy Haslam paid him extra for losing games. He later clarified on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” that the team had a “four-year plan” that incentivized losing.
“To disrespect the game like that, trust was lost, and there were certainly some strained relationships, and ultimately, I think that was my demise in Miami,” Flores, who was fired Jan. 10 after back-to-back-winning seasons, said Wednesday in an interview on ESPN’s “Get Up.”
With the fantasy leagues, connections to Las Vegas and all the betting that goes on now on NFL games, a lot of people that I spoke with Wednesday weren’t surprised by the allegations.
Several people even asked me if the NFL was as scripted as pro wrestling. That’s not true, but even to make that comparison tells you that the league has to take proper actions and investigate these claims, not just brush them off, especially if more coaches come forward.
It’s been a wacky and bizarre NFL season, so these revelations seem appropriate. NFL owners and executives are proud of their logo and shield. It’s supposed to stand for integrity. But if more former NFL coaches make similar claims and the accusations are true, those owners must give up control of their respective teams.
It’s an integrity issue.