This week at a special league meeting, the NFL Workplace Diversity Committee announced policy changes to the Rooney Rule. As a part of their efforts to increase diversity, “[a]ll 32 NFL teams will hire a minority offensive assistant coach for the 2022 season…the coach can be ‘a female or a member of an ethnic or racial minority.’” 

In order to be considered, a candidate is required to have “at least three years of collegiate or professional experience in coaching football. Those persons will receive a one-year contract with a salary and benefits, the organization announced. For the roles, the NFL will reimburse teams up to $200,000 in 2022 and $205,000 in 2023 from a league fund for coaches,” NPR reports. 

These changes are being enacted to provide the NFL with a pathway for minority coaches, with an eventual goal of increasing the diversity pipeline for head-coaching positions. 

Art Rooney II, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and chairman of the NFL Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee, said “It’s a recognition that at the moment, when you look at stepping stones for a head coach, they are the coordinator positions…We clearly have a trend where coaches are coming from the offensive side of the ball in recent years, and we clearly do not have as many minorities in the offensive coordinator [job].”

The Rooney Rule, named after Art Rooney’s father, was originally adopted in 2003, which was “an NFL policy requiring every team with a head coaching vacancy to interview at least one or more diverse candidates.” 

In addition, the league announced the formation of “a six-person diversity advisory committee to review its hiring policies and practices with a ‘focus on senior-level coach and front office personnel positions.’”

While these policies are a step in the right direction, some are concerned that teams might “circumvent hiring ethnic minority candidates by leaning more toward women hires…[as] the rule now specifies that a ‘minority’ is either a woman or an ethnic minority.” 

These changes are occurring a month after Brian Flores, former Miami Dolphins head coach filed a racial discrimination “lawsuit against the NFL and three of its teams” and the January firing of David Culley, former Houston Texans head coach, who was fired after just one season and in the same week as Flores. Currently, the NFL has only two Black head coaches, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin, and Houston Texans’ Love Smith. 

The league said, “While we have made important progress, we have more work ahead of us to ensure we are approaching DEI holistically — including the need to evaluate and adjust policies, incentives, and additional requirements to ensure effectiveness and result in better outcomes for women and people of color.”

In a statement, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said, “We’ve worked for years and made progress in many areas to ensure that staff and leaders in our office and at our clubs reflect the racial and gender makeup of America, but we have more work to do, particularly at the head coach and front-office level.”