I wasn’t enamored with Major League Baseball’s opening day ceremonies where the opposing teams grasped a black ribbon and knelt to one knee as Black Lives Matter was emblazoned on the scoreboards and pitching mounds. I am even less enamored with the NFL playing Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing during the opening day ceremonies starting this Thursday, September 10th. We need more than these acts of empty symbolism and pageantry – we need real change!
Since Roger Goodell made his pitiful apology on behalf of the NFL, the league has been scurrying to make up for the ignorance it displayed towards Colin Kaepernick. Teams have either changed names or are in the process of re-thinking their names as the sports world grapples with its contradictions and slave master league structures and mascots. But the side show doesn’t end there. This Thursday’s token gesture is just another gimmick. According to an article on NPR.com, Lift Ev’ry Voice is being performed “as the league considers ways to recognize victims of systemic racism.” Really? The National Football League has to consider ways to recognize victims of systemic racism? Really? Why not start by looking in the mirror?
The NFL is the epitome of systemic or institutional racism. Wikipedia defines it as “a form of racism that is embedded as normal practice within society or an organization. It can lead to such issues as discrimination in criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, political power, and education, among other issues.” So let’s examine the NFL’s egregious actions.
- Seventy percent of the NFL’s players are Black, but there are only three black head coaches: Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin, Miami’s Brian Flores, and the Los Angeles Chargers’ Anthony Lynn.
- As of now, there are only two Black offensive coordinators in the NFL
- Last year Among the 32 teams, there were 10 Black defensive coordinators.
- There are two Black GMs in the NFL. Just two. Andrew Berry and Chris Grier. Everyone else is white.
- The NFL has never had a Black franchise owner
The NFL will be quick to bring up the Rooney Rule as its response to systemic racism. The Rooney Rule is a National Football League policy that requires league teams to interview ethnic-minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. When it was enacted in the early 2000’s it was viewed as a step in the right direction. It was thought that given the chance to present their football acumen and leadership, former Black players would impress GMs and owners that they deserved bigger roles.
However, Neil Paine’s article “The Rooney Rule Isn’t Working Anymore” points out that despite its early success the momentum has started to fade. “Increasingly, black coaches are going into interviews feeling like they have no shot at getting the job. If NFL coaching diversity seems to have hit a wall in recent years, it’s oddly reminiscent of the way early progress stagnated before the league originally…”
…the most prominent snub in recent years
Robert Klemko highlights the failings of the Rooney Rule in the plight of the Superbowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. Klemko reports that Bieniemy, “probably the best coach on the market” interviewed with seven teams over the past two years, including the Browns, Panthers, and Giants this hiring season. If he’s hired by the Browns, he would be the latest in a string of former offensive coordinators under Andy Reid to land top jobs, after the Philadelphia Eagles’ Doug Pederson and the Chicago Bears’ Matt Nagy. If not, it will be viewed by many Black coaches as the most prominent snub in recent years.” Bieniemy will start his eighth -season as the Chiefs Offensive Coordinator – not as a head coach in the league.
So, when the NFL kicks off its 101st season, Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing is introduced to some Americans for the first time, the league makes any number of self-aggrandizing statements on their attempt to bring attention to racial injustice and announcers struggle with political correctness, I hope they close in on Eric Bieniemy and someone ask the NFL who do they think they’re fooling?